5 African countries pledged to uphold free internet in 2021 UN resolution, yet imposed 16 restrictions since
Cybersecurity company Surfshark conducted a study analyzing UN countries’ stances in the 2021 UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution on the promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the internet.
"In today’s world, internet shutdowns have become a major concern. Authoritarian governments frequently employ them as a means to manipulate the public and stifle free speech. The UN resolution on human rights on the internet aims to make countries openly condemn these shutdowns and other ways of restricting online speech. However, it's concerning that even though 5 African countries publicly supported the resolution, they still imposed internet restrictions. It’s important to promote an open and accessible internet and pressure countries to uphold their commitments regarding human rights online”, says Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske, Surfshark spokeswoman.
The African countries that supported the 2021 UN resolution but “broke their word” were Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Somalia, and Nigeria.
Sudan has “broken its word” the most in Africa with 9 internet disruptions that took place after the country supported the 2021 resolution, the first one happening amid the 2021 military coup. Burkina Faso comes in second, with 4 restrictions since the resolution’s adoption in 2021. The country’s 2022 restriction on Facebook is still in place today. Mauritania and Somalia both had one internet restriction since supporting the resolution. Mauritania restricted mobile internet amid a prison riot, and Somalia had an internet blackout after the parliament voted to remove the prime minister. Nigeria had one ongoing restriction at the time of the resolution's adoption but had no new restrictions since then. Nigeria had banned Twitter a month before the adoption, and the restriction lasted until January 2022.
9 countries from other continents also “broke their word”: India, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Russia, Brazil, Armenia, Indonesia, and Ukraine*. Surfshark’s Internet Shutdown Tracker reveals that there were a total of 58 internet disruptions in these 14 countries during or after the adoption of the resolution.India stands out as the country that has “broken its word” the most, with 19 internet disruptions since the resolution’s adoption in 2021 (if we included the Jammu & Kashmir region, this number would be even higher).
The Human Rights Council convenes at least three regular sessions annually. The upcoming 53rd session is scheduled for the summer of 2023. While the agenda of the specific resolution is currently unknown, Surfshark will keep an eye out for any updates regarding upcoming UN resolutions on human rights on the internet.