Eswatini Bans Facebook, Messenger Amid Violent Protests

Mobile Network Operators from Eswatini have reported that the government has ordered them to suspend social media sites Facebook and Messenger until further notice.

The news comes amid more pro-democracy protests in the monarchy. The protests began in July this year resulting in the death of eight people and critical injuries to 28 people. At the time, the government imposed a full internet ban in the Southern African Kingdom.

“The business has implemented the directive and access to Facebook and Facebook Messenger has been suspended. … We will continue engaging with the relevant stakeholders to minimise the impact and duration of the service disruption.” A statement from MTN Eswatini says.

Read: No Plans to Shutdown Internet in 2022 Polls over Hate Speech- CS Matiang’i

The mobile network operators have not yet given any reasons for the ban, but it is widely known fact that the bans are put in place to control and limit protests organized via social media and to prevent sharing of any information that the government wants to protect.

Over the years, and particularly in 2020 and this year, more African countries have imposed internet and social media shutdowns especially during and after the election period. Uganda, Chad, Tanzania and Ethiopia have all experienced various forms of social media and internet shutdowns this year.

According to a 2020 report from British tech research firm Comparitech on internet disruption, shutdowns in Africa happen during the election period or in cases of civil unrest.

The report said that the shutdowns in Tanzania and Uganda were ordered by the incumbent governments in a bid to silence the opposition, giving them the upper hand in the election process against the people’s will.

Read also: Kenya Leads with 10 Million Active Users on Facebook Groups Monthly- Report

Most recently, Nigeria took a stance to switch off popular social media app, Twitter, after a tweet from President Mohammed Buhari was deleted

Eswatini authorities are reported to have attacked unarmed residents during this period with acts of violence being reported. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed envoys to help bring an end to the violent protests.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that governments are required to adhere to their international human rights commitments. Nations are only required to carry out legal, necessary, and proportional restrictive measures on freedom of expression in exceptional legal cases.

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Written by Francis Muli

Follow me on Twitter @francismuli_ Email:

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