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Fighting for social networks in Sudan: to lose the right to free Internet and in a month to win it back

After the protests and the wave of lawsuits, residents regained access to the network.

Protests in Sudan June 25  Photo by Reuters

On July 9, a Sudanese court ordered Internet providers to restore Internet access for all users in the country. Access to the mobile Internet and social networks was limited to 36 days due to actions against the military government.

Why did the people of Sudan turn off the Internet?

From December 2018 in Sudan there were protests because of the increase in the cost of housing, fuel, bread and flour. In February 2019, President Omar al-Bashir dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency in the country for a period of one year. On April 11, Sudanese military arrested al-Bashir, dissolved the cabinet and the National Assembly, suspended the Constitution and established the Transitional Military Council.

The former president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, came to power in 1989 as a result of a military coup and since 1996 has been the irremovable president of the country.  Reuters

In May, protests against the military government began in Khartoum. Oppositionists advocated the transfer of power to civilians and “the exposure and isolation of anti-revolutionary forces.” On the square in front of the headquarters of the main command of the army of the Sudan for more than a month a sit-in strike continued.

A girl is painting graffiti next to a parking lot of protesters in Khartoum. 
May 2 CNN

On June 3, government troops opened fire on demonstrators during the dispersal of a peaceful sit-in strike, after which dozens were killed . On the same day, the government imposed restrictions on the Internet for all Sudanese citizens. On July 10, the government completely blocked social networks and access to the mobile Internet.

The new authorities of Sudan justified the shutdown of the Internet by the fact that social networks like Facebook and Twitter allowed residents to unite several weeks before and during the protests. “Today we see that social networks pose a threat to the security of the country, and we will not allow this to happen,” General Shamseddin Kabbashi, the representative of the ruling military council , said in June.

Fight for free internet and access to social networks

Information on the state of affairs in Sudan caused a public outcry. To draw attention to the political crisis in the country, social networks laid out posts on the situation in Sudan. Many on Instagram and Twitter have replaced the avatars with blue rectangles – the unofficial symbol of online protest. The blue box stood on the avatar of one of the victims of the clashes on June 3.

Many celebrities, including Rihanna, Cardi Bee and Naomi Campbell, joined the online campaign to tell as many people as possible about the clashes in Khartoum. Against the background of public resonance on Instagram , fake accounts appeared , the authors of which spread false information about victims and declare that they are helping them for repost.

On June 12, lawyer Abdelazim Hassan of the Khartoum College of Allied Attorney took the first steps towards restoring Internet access in the country. He appealed to the court with a petition to resume the work of the Internet due to a violation of the terms of the contract with its provider Zain. The lawyer called the opportunity to apply to the court for compensation due to the lack of the Internet enshrined in the document “constitutional law.” On June 23, the court ruled in favor of Hassan, but only in relation to his mobile phone.

Now 4G Internet works for me, but I again went to court, demanding that all users work on the Internet again. Because it makes no sense for anyone to surf the Internet, everyone needs to be online.Abdelazim Hassan
lawyer from Sudan

In parallel with the actions of Hassan, rallies against the shutdown of the Internet were held in the country. On June 21, a large-scale protest rally was held outside the National Telecommunications Corporation building, which was dispersed by the operational support forces. On June 30, people across Sudan came out on the “Marches of Millions” against the military government: seven people were killed in the clashes , 181 participants of the actions suffered. The military and the police usedtear gas, live ammunition and stun grenades to disperse the crowd. After that, according to Hassan, the local newspaper Al-Tayyar posted an appeal to Internet-provider users to go to court with claims to unblock them.

At the end of June, the Transitional Military Council announced the possible lifting of Internet blocking. Access was planned to resume only partially, without removing the block from social networks.

On July 5, the Transitional Military Council and the opposition reached an agreement and decided to establish the Transitional Council, which will govern the country for three years and three months. The council will consist of five military and five civilians. On July 9 in Sudan, a hearing was set up on the case of unlocking the Internet and social networks. The day before the meeting, UN experts in the field of human rights called on the authorities of an African country to meet the demands of the plaintiffs. They called blocking a violation of human rights, which “cannot be justified under any circumstances.” As a result, the court decided to remove the blocking for all users: as a result, on this day for the first time in a month Sudan recorded an increase in Internet activity.

Statistics of effective Internet access in Sudan.  Netblocks

July 10 Sudanese telecommunications providers re-establish 3G and 4G data connections. Hassan said that this is part of the decisions in response to lawsuits against telecommunications companies. At a press conference organized by the Consumer Protection Association, he called the Internet disconnection an unprecedented phenomenon and trial for the citizens of Sudan.

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