The Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday joined 30 other rights organizations in a joint letter urging the government of Burundi to ensure that the internet remains accessible before, during, and after the presidential elections scheduled for tomorrow.
In the letter, addressed to President Pierre Nkurunziza, the organizations, which are part of the #KeepItOn coalition against internet shutdowns, also call for the unblocking of all independent media websites and a guarantee that the public will be informed about any potential internet disruptions. Currently, at least three independent news websites are blocked in Burundi, according to the letter.
Burundi’s elections are taking place amid a hostile environment for the media, including the ongoing detention of four journalists from the Iwacu news website and government bans on the BBC and Voice of America broadcasters, as CPJ has documented.
In the letter, it was noted that Internet shutdowns violate fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and the right to peaceful assembly, among others guaranteed by national, regional, and international frameworks such as the Constitution of the Republic of Burundi, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).
About 30 different organizations, therefore, call on the president to undertake the necessary measures to ensure that the internet service providers and relevant actors ensure an open, accessible, and secure internet across Burundi throughout this critical period.
The Right Organizations respectfully request that the president use the important positions of his good offices to:
- Ensure that the internet, including social media and other digital communication platforms, remains accessible throughout the elections;
- Ensure that the Agence de Régulation et de Contrôle des Télécommunications (ARCT) and the Conseil National de la Communication take all the necessary regulatory measures to ensure internet service providers (ISPs) inform people of any form of disruption or interference in the provision of internet access;
- Order the unblocking of all websites of independent media outlets that are currently inaccessible in the country.