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How Internet Shutdowns Stifle Democracy

Internet shutdowns reflect the general atmosphere of political repression, censorship, human rights violations, weak institutions, and a lack of the rule of law. 

These deliberate disruptions hinder the exchange of ideas and obstruct the flow of crucial information necessary for informed decision-making during elections. 

Candidates find themselves constrained in their campaigning efforts; voters need help accessing vital information and trust in the electoral process, and observers face insurmountable challenges in documenting irregularities.

Unpacking Internet Shutdowns

But what exactly is an internet shutdown? 

It’s a deliberate act, a calculated move to render the internet inaccessible or effectively unusable for a specific population or within a particular location. 

This blackout of digital connectivity isn’t just a technical glitch—it’s a violation of fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms. 

It strikes at the core of freedom of expression, impedes access to information, and casts a shadow on press freedom.

The Struggle for Expression

Governments that resort to internet shutdowns often employ a suite of tactics aimed at silencing opposition voices. 

From controlling the media narrative to imposing restrictions on electoral campaigns and public gatherings, these measures tilt the playing field in favour of government-aligned candidates. 

Independent voices and opposition parties find themselves stifled, facing discrimination in their quest for equal access to media platforms—a cornerstone of fair democratic elections.

Safeguarding Democracy

In the intricate dance of democracy, the role of digital connectivity cannot be understated. Internet shutdowns, wielded as suppression weapons, threaten the essence of democratic processes. 

Protecting access to information, ensuring media freedom, and upholding the rights of all citizens are not just ideals—they are the pillars upon which true democracy stands.

Neema Mujesia is the communications intern at KICTANet. She works in the Gender Digital Rights Program and advocates for human rights for all in the technology industry.


Neema Mujesia information

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