Sudan protests

Sudanese internet blackout continues following court ruling

Image credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

According to Reuters, internet access has been restored in Sudan following a court ruling that it must be reversed, but only to one person.

An internet blackout has been in place across Sudan (as well as across its neighbouring Ethiopia). Sudanese citizens have been engaged in long-running protests calling for the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to hand power to a civilian-led government following the ousting of Omar al-Bashir in a military coup.

Negotiations between the TMC and civilians ended after TMC forces killed 118 peaceful protestors, raped at least 70 and injured many others in the Khartoum Massacre on 3 June. The death toll has climbed to an estimated 128 since the massacre.

In an attempt to hamper widespread civil disobedience (including a general strike) following the massacre, a blackout of internet services was called for across Sudan. The National Intelligence and Security Service and Huawei shut down services, disrupting the protestors’ organisation.

The blackout has resulted in a “near-total loss of access” for ordinary mobile and fixed line users, although NetBlocks reported that connectivity had improved from two per cent to 10 per cent last week.

Protestors have demanded that they will not return to talks – which were suspended after the brutal massacre – until internet services are restored. The BBC Arabic service was told by a member of the TMC that services would be restored once talks had resumed.

According to Rick Brennan, regional emergencies director of the WHO, the internet blackout has hampered humanitarian operations in the country.

In response, the lawyer Abdel-Adheem Hassan filed a legal case over the blackout. He told Reuters that the Khartoum District Court had ordered Zain Sudan – the largest Sudanese network operator – to “immediately restore internet services to the country”. A Zain source told Reuters that the country’s telecommunications regulator had ordered the blackout.

While Hassan’s case was won, he reports that so far only he has benefitted as he filed the case in a personal capacity, with his own internet services being restored. He has returned to court to argue for the right of more Sudanese civilians to regain internet access, and told the BBC that he hopes that one million people may be able to access services again by the end of the week.

Sudanese authorities previously restricted access to social media services during earlier protests against ousted leader al-Bashir. Internet blackouts have become an increasingly common tactic to hamper civilian uprisings, with services being limited. Elsewhere in Africa, Ethiopia and Mauritania have been plunged into internet blackouts, following an attempted coup in Ethiopia and calls for peaceful protests in Mauritania following the declaration of Mohamed Ghouzani as president.

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