2024 elections and internet shutdowns watch

2024 ELECTIONS AND INTERNET SHUTDOWNS WATCH

Governments around the world must refrain from wielding internet shutdowns during elections to disconnect, disenfranchise, and deny people their right to participatory democracy.

The global #KeepItOn coalition — uniting over 300 civil society organizations — monitors, documents, and pushes back against internet shutdowns across the globe. Our data points to one fact: authorities continue to shut down the internet and critical digital communication platforms during key national events such as elections, infringing on the human rights of millions of people in the process. 

Election-related shutdowns prevent voters from accessing or sharing essential information, decreasing the fairness, credibility, and transparency of elections. They empower incumbent regimes to control the narrative throughout the electoral period, undermining the electorate’s ability to make informed decisions, access polling resources, and fully shape their nation’s future.

2024 is an unprecedented year for democracy. National elections are expected to take place in at least 64 countries, determining representatives for nearly half the world’s population. Among those countries, 24 have imposed shutdowns in the past, accounting for a combined population of 2.8 billion people, or about 1/3 of the total global population. With billions of people at risk of shutdowns in 2024 during election periods alone, the stakes for democracy and human rights this year are higher than ever.

That’s why the #KeepItOn coalition will be fighting to #KeepItOn in high-risk countries around the globe, during the 2024 election season and beyond.

Notably, the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) — a network of at least 38 countries — is standing with us in this effort and recently issued a joint statement denouncing shutdowns in times of elections and urging states to refrain from normalizing this practice.

WATCHLIST

The 2024 #KeepItOn Election Watch list includes at least 23 countries where we have identified a high risk for internet shutdowns during an election period. These high-risk elections include countries where we have previously recorded an internet shutdown or where current political or socio-economic conditions could trigger authorities to shut down internet access during critical national moments like elections or protests.

The #KeepItOn coalition is actively monitoring high-risk elections and working to prevent internet shutdowns by engaging with government officials, private sector actors, election observer groups, journalists, and individuals; raising awareness about the dangers and impact of shutdowns; and building capacity for resilience where internet shutdowns occur. 

Just because a country is not on this list does not mean there is no risk of a shutdown. Throughout the year, we may add additional countries to the watch list if the threat of a shutdown increases or if dates are announced for high-risk elections that have been postponed. It is important to remain vigilant, and we are here to support civil society partners who are interested in organizing ahead of their country’s elections.

The #KeepItOn campaign continuously monitors for and documents internet shutdowns globally, and we will be watching closely for shutdowns in the lead-up to, during, or immediately following elections wherever they may occur.

Date
country
status

January 7

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Government publicly committed to #KeepItOn

January 14

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Shutdown detected

February 7

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Shutdown detected

February 8

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Shutdown detected

February 14

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No shutdown detected

February 25

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No shutdown detected

March 1

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No shutdown detected

March 15-17

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No shutdown detected

March 24

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No shutdown detected

April 29

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No shutdown detected

April 19-June 1

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TBD – on the watch

June 22

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TBD – on the watch

July 28

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TBD – on the watch

September

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TBD – on the watch

October

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TBD – on the watch

October

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TBD – on the watch

November 13

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TBD – on the watch

November

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TBD – on the watch

November

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TBD – on the watch

December 7

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TBD – on the watch

December

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TBD – on the watch

December

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TBD – on the watch

December

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TBD – on the watch

DateCountryStatus
January 7BangladeshGovernment publicly
committed to #KeepItOn
January 14ComorosShutdown detected
February 7AzerbaijanShutdown detected
February 8PakistanShutdown detected
February 14IndonesiaNo shutdown detected
February 25BelarusNo shutdown detected
March 1IranNo shutdown detected
March 15-17RussiaNo shutdown detected
March 24SenegalNo shutdown detected
April 29TogoNo shutdown detected
April 19-June 1 IndiaTBD – on the watch
June 22MauritaniaTBD – on the watch
July 28VenezuelaTBC – on the watch
SeptemberSri LankaTBD – on the watch
OctoberChadTBD – on the watch
OctoberTanzaniaTBD – on the watch
November 13SomalilandTBD – on the watch
NovemberGuinea BissauTBD – on the watch
NovemberJordanTBD – on the watch
December 7GhanaTBD – on the watch
DecemberAlgeriaTBD – on the watch
DecemberSouth SudanTBD – on the watch
DecemberUzbekistanTBD – on the watch

You can also browse elections on the watch by region:

Elections on the watch list in Africa

COMOROS

January 14 — Presidential & Governors

What happened:

Authorities in Comoros imposed its first internet shutdown in an attempt to quell post-election protests which erupted after authorities announced President Azali Assoumani had won another term. Data from our internet traffic measurement partners Cloudflare Radar and IODA confirmed the shutdown, which began at 09:00 UTC on January 17, 2024, and impacted the main internet service provider, Comores Telecom.

senegal

March 24 — Presidential election

What happened:

Access Now and #KeepItOn coalition partners in Senegal didn’t receive any reports of shutdowns during the elections. After months of protests and outcry following President Macky Sall’s postponement of elections, Senegal’s Constitutional Council, together with the presidency, agreed to hold elections on March 24, before President Sall’s mandate ended on April 2.  Postponing elections is unconstitutional and undemocratic, especially when authorities crack down on people protesting such delays. The Senegalese government intentionally disrupted internet access during several of these protests.

Why we watched:

Authorities in Senegal have recently joined the list of countries wielding shutdowns to muzzle expression and dissent during key national crises. In 2023 alone, the government imposed two incidents of mobile internet shutdowns and a TikTok ban to quell protests in the country. The government also blocked social media and messaging apps amid deadly riots across the country in 2021. 

Ahead of a highly contested election, we strongly urged Senegal’s authorities to uphold the right to information and safeguard freedom of expression throughout the election period.

TOGO

April 29 — Regional and legislative elections

What happened:

The #KeepItOn coalition received no reports of internet shutdowns during Togo’s elections.

Why we watched:

In February 2020, Togolese authorities blocked access to social media platforms and messaging services on election day. This wasn’t the first time the internet had been disrupted in the country. In September 2017, when anti-government protests erupted in the country, the Togo government flipped the kill switch to quell the planned protests. Activists, journalists, and individuals in and outside Togo successfully challenged the 2017 internet shutdowns at the ECOWAS court, which ruled in their favor in July 2020 that the shutdown was illegal and an affront to freedom of expression.

Through an open letter, we urged the authorities to refrain from interfering with access to the internet and digital communications throughout the electoral season in March. 

CHAD

October — General election

Why we’re watching:

Chad is a repeat offender, having shut down the internet multiple times over the years. From 2018 to 2019, Chad cut access to major social media platforms, including WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, for a total of 472 days, citing “security reasons” as justification. With Chad expected to head to the polls in by October 2024, our focus will be on the nation to #KeepItOn.

TANZANIA

October — Local elections

Why we’re watching:

Tanzania’s Magufuli-led government implemented the first shutdown during the 2020 general election. Prior to disrupting internet access, the government re-introduced the infamous Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Contents) Regulations which, among other repressive provisions, outlawed the use of circumvention tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs). In October 2023, the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) again issued a directive which threatened to ban the use of VPNs if people and institutions failed to declare them. As the country prepares for local government elections later this year and for general elections in 2025, such directives must be condemned by all and pressure mounted on the government of Tanzania to refrain from restricting access to open and secure internet and digital communications. 

GUINEA BISSAU

November — Presidential election

Why we’re watching:

Guinea Bissau has no history of internet shutdowns, but activists have documented measures put in place by the government to limit press freedom and freedom of expression. The current political situation is tense, as the country has experienced numerous military coups and instability in the past years, and President Umaro Sissoco Embalo dissolved the parliament following the most recent coup attempt in December 2023. Maintaining access to information and keeping channels of communication open are essential for people in periods of political uncertainty. With presidential elections expected late in 2024 and parliamentary elections yet to be scheduled, authorities and service providers must commit to #KeepItOn.

GHANA

December — General election

Why we’re watching:

Ghana remains one of the exemplary countries that has never subjected its people to deliberate internet disruptions during important national events, unlike neighboring countries in West Africa. However, the proposed national framework guiding use of social media during elections and various government initiatives to combat mis- and disinformation adopt a more heavy-handed approach that could threaten free expression. Minister of National Security Albert Kan Dapaah raised concerns  about mis- and disinformation being used to undermine electoral integrity. He also accused academia, civil society, and the media in Ghana of actively exploiting their influence on social media to disseminate misinformation that threatens the nation’s peace and stability. Governments across the globe have often justified decisions to shut down the internet and block specific platforms by pointing to the need to combat mis- and disinformation during political events such elections or protests. 

We will keep an eye on developments in Ghana and engage with the authorities to ensure unrestricted internet access for all throughout the December elections and beyond.

SOUTH SUDAN

December — General election

Why we’re watching:

In August 2021, the government of South Sudan shut down internet access for several hours following calls for protests and for resignation of president Salva Kiir by activists who accused him of corruption and failing to protect the population in the country. 

South Sudan is set to hold its first-ever presidential elections since independence – a critical moment for democracy for people to exercise their fundamental rights. We urge the government of South Sudan to #KeepItOn. 

Elections on the watch list in Asia-Pacific

BANGLADESH

January 7 — General election

What happened:

Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition welcomed commitments made by authorities in Bangladesh to #KeepItOn throughout the electoral period. For instance, a few days  before elections, the telecom regulator, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) instructed internet service providers and mobile operators in the country to ensure unfettered access to the internet throughout the elections. This followed prior requests by Anisur Rahman, Election Commissioner, urging the BTRC not to shut down networks on election day. However, while these commitments were upheld, broader censorship remains a concern, as there were reports of news media websites being blocked. 

Why we watched:

Increasing government crackdowns have steadily eroded civic space in Bangladesh. In 2022, the government of Bangladesh imposed six internet shutdowns, including internet throttling in December to quell protests – making it the fifth-highest perpetrator of shutdowns across the globe that year. Authorities repeated the offense in October 2023, directing internet service and telecom providers in the country to block internet services during a political rally by opposition parties. The government also suspended 4G and 3G mobile services during the 2018 election period, impacting 86 million people in the country using mobile services, and kept Rohingya refugees seeking shelter in Cox’s Bazar in the dark even during the outbreak of COVID-19.

PAKISTAN

February 8 — General election

What happened: ​

Citing security reasons, authorities in Pakistan cut off mobile internet access on election day — despite previous civil society warnings and promises by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and Election Commission to #KeepItOn. Connectivity was restored after polling ended, albeit with continued blocking of social media platform X.

Why we watched:

Elections in Pakistan are scheduled for February 2024 after postponement in 2023. Authorities in Pakistan have a long history of imposing internet shutdowns during key national events, and we have already seen multiple shutdowns targeting opposition activities in this election cycle. In May 2023, authorities shut down the internet targeting mobile and social media platforms across several regions amidst violent protests following the arrest of opposition leader and former prime minister Imran Khan. Authorities blocked social media access in December 2023 to disrupt a virtual opposition event, and again shut down access to internet and social media platforms on January 7, 2024, to interfere with the launch of an online election campaign by Imran Khan’s party.

General elections were last held in Pakistan in 2018, a year during which people in Pakistan were subjected to at least 11 internet shutdowns, three separate instances in the span of just one week. Despite a 2018 ruling by the Islamabad High Court denouncing the use of mobile internet shutdowns as illegal, authorities continue to arbitrarily disrupt these essential services, violating people’s rights. 

As the people prepared to vote in 2024 under an already tense political and economic situation, we urged the government to ensure the free flow of information throughout the electoral period and beyond.

INDONESIA

February 14 — General election

What happened:

The #KeepItOn coalition received no reports of an internet shutdown in Indonesia.

Why we watched:

In 2019, the government of Indonesia imposed internet shutdowns, which prevented journalists from covering protests that erupted after a video surfaced showing Indonesian security agents using racist language in attacks on students in Papua and West Papua. As protests escalated, the authorities extended the disruptions to other regions. The government attempted to justify the shutdowns by citing public safety. However, the internet shutdowns seriously disrupted Papuans’ ability to access critical information, freely express themselves, peacefully assemble, and reach out to their loved ones. 

Civil society sued the Ministry of Communication and Information and the President of the Republic of Indonesia, and in 2020, the Jakarta Administrative court ruled that the shutdowns imposed in Papua were illegal. The court said that “any decision that limited people’s right to information should be made in accordance with the law and not merely based on the government’s discretion.” 

Ahead of this year’s general elections, we strongly urged the government to refrain from denying access to information and to uphold unfettered internet access throughout the election period.

INDIA

April 19 to June 1 — General election

Why we’re watching:

India has maintained its inglorious position as the world’s leading perpetrator of shutdowns according to monitoring by the #KeepItOn coalition. In 2022, India recorded 84 incidents of shutdowns. The people of Manipur and other regions have also been deliberately denied access to internet and digital communications channels for several months, again demonstrating a concerning trend of normalizing internet shutdowns in response to crises for a protracted period. From selective blockades in the Jammu and Kashmir region to hastily imposed shutdowns aimed at quelling public demonstrations, Indian authorities have intensified their control over India’s digital space.

The #KeepItOn coalition appeals to Indian authorities to refrain from restricting access to the internet and digital platforms throughout the 2024 elections and beyond. 

SRI LANKA

Between September and October — Presidential elections

Why we’re watching:

On April 3, 2023, the Sri Lankan Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, acting under the directives of the Ministry of Defence, shut down social media platforms. This was in response to extensive public protests following the president’s declaration of a state of emergency in the country. The network disruption occurred alongside increased censorship and an apparent effort to isolate the nation from the global digital sphere, all of which are indicators of a government moving toward a more authoritarian digital stance. With the presidential election scheduled to take place sometime between September and October 2024, authorities must uphold democracy and ensure full internet access nationwide before, during, and after elections.

Elections on the watch list in Eastern Europe & Central Asia

azerbaijan

February 7 — Presidential election

What happened:  

On both the eve of the election and election day itself, lawyers and journalists in Azerbaijan reported that internet access was throttled at various polling stations, despite pressure from civil society to #KeepItOn

Why we watched:

The Azerbaijani government — led by President Ilham Aliyev, who took power in 2003 after his father ruled for more than a decade — has a long history of suppressing the free flow of information and silencing critical voices. In September 2020, police arrested dozens of protesters rallying against the imprisonment of a high-profile opposition leader. Ahead of the 2018 election, independent media outlets and civil society groups faced an onslaught of online attacks attempting to silence their dissent, and Azerbaijan has a growing record of internet shutdowns and slowdowns during moments of heightened political sensitivity.

BELARUS

February 25 — Parliamentary election

What happened:

Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition received no reports of internet shutdowns in Belarus during the parliamentary elections.

Why we watched:

Following mass protests against the outcome of the August 9, 2020 elections, which extended Aleksandr Lukashenko’s presidency for yet another term, his administration imposed a complete internet shutdown to crack down on protesters. Authorities disrupted internet access and blocked access to social media platforms and foreign news websites for several days, hindering the public’s access to crucial information and impeding their ability to mobilize and communicate.

With civic space dwindling in Belarus and dissenting voices including journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders facing increasing repression, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition called for telecommunication and internet service providers in Belarus to resist any orders from the government to shut down the internet.

RUSSIA

March 15-17 — Presidential election

What happened:

Access Now and #KeepItOn coalition partners in Russia didn’t document any shutdowns during Russia’s March 2024 elections.

Why we watched:

Russia is a leading perpetrator of shutdowns both at home and abroad to silence dissent and perpetrate human rights abuses in times of conflict. Authorities continue to tighten their grip on people’s rights both online and offline through the imposition of shutdowns during critical national affairs. Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition documented incidents of shutdowns and censorship by the incumbent government during Russia’s 2021 parliamentary elections. Ahead of this year’s elections, we urged Russian authorities to ensure unfettered access to the internet and digital platforms before, during, and after the elections.

UZBEKISTAN

December — Parliamentary election

Why we’re watching:

Uzbek authorities have a history of imposing internet shutdowns to quell protests and block the flow of information. In 2022, the government shut down mobile internet access in the Karakalpakstan region to block information about political protests. The disruption coincided with reports of crackdown and human rights violations against individuals and journalists working in the region. With parliamentary elections scheduled to take place late this year, we urge the government to refrain from denying people access to critical information and to #KeepItOn throughout the elections. 

Elections on the watch list in Latin America and the Caribbean

VENEZUELA

July 28 — Presidential election

Why we’re watching:

The political climate in Venezuela has been characterized by a protracted crisis, marked by political polarization, economic instability, allegations of human rights abuses, and a power struggle between the government and opposition forces. The Maduro government has a long history of using internet shutdowns and other forms of censorship to suppress opposition voices and limit the flow of information within the country, particularly at moments of heightened tension. Authorities in Venezuela must not shut down social media or interfere with internet access throughout the upcoming elections.

Elections on the watch list in Middle East and North Africa

IRAN

March 1 — Legislative elections

What happened:

Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition did not document any cases of internet shutdown during Iran’s legislative elections.

Why we watched:

Iranian authorities have continuously used shutdowns as a weapon of control to silence dissenting voices and to cover-up heinous crimes committed against people across the country. In 2022, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition documented at least 18 cases of shutdowns, a majority of which coincided with massive protests against the killing of Mahsa Jina Amini. Last year, the Iranian government continued its track record of shutting down the internet during critical national events. Ahead of legislative elections in March 2024, we called on the government of Iran to refrain from imposing shutdowns or any form of censorship during and beyond the elections, and for the international community to reinforce this message.

MAURITANIA

June 22 — Presidential election

Why we’re watching:

Mauritanian authorities have a history of deploying internet shutdowns during crucial periods. Most recently, authorities disrupted mobile internet access on March 6, 2023, which coincided with four individuals’ escape from prison in Nouakchott. The government did not provide an explanation as to why the internet was disrupted. In 2019, authorities restricted internet access after a fiercely contested presidential election. Authorities in Mauritania must not repeat these actions in the upcoming 2024 presidential election. 

SOMALILAND

November 13 — Presidential election

Why we’re watching:

The #KeepItOn coalition first recorded an internet shutdown in Somaliland in 2017, a period marked by political turbulence. There have been several subsequent shutdowns, often aligning with electoral processes, demonstrations, or other critical events. In August 2022, journalists in Somaliland reported an internet shutdown that started at around 06:00 local time as protesters from the opposition and general public gathered in various locations, including Hargeisa and Burao.

Disrupting internet access during election periods undermines people’s ability to make informed decisions and fully shape their nation’s future. As the people of Somaliland vote this year, we appeal to the government and all stakeholders to ensure unfettered access to the internet and digital platforms.

JORDAN

November — General election

Why we’re watching:

In Jordan, authorities have repeatedly blocked social media platforms to quell protests and unrest. In 2022, we documented four incidents of shutdowns in the country amid protests. For instance, when protests against rising fuel prices by truck drivers erupted, authorities began blocking mobile internet as well as TikTok, which was being used to livestream the protests. Jordanian officials also imposed shutdowns targeting Facebook Live during protests against COVID-19 restrictions in 2021. They also blocked Clubhouse, the social media audio chat platform which remains blocked, while the government also intensified blocking of VPNs across the country. 

The recent adoption of a cybercrime law that gives the government unwavering powers to control online content, coupled with its history of using shutdowns, both point to a heightened risk of a shutdown during the upcoming general elections. While the authorities did not shut down the internet during the 2020 elections, the country’s repeated disruption of the internet restricting access to information during critical national events raises concerns. 

We urge the Jordanian government to #KeepItOn throughout elections in November.

ALGERIA

December — Presidential election

Why we’re watching:

Algerian authorities have a history of imposing internet shutdowns during exams, recurring annually for the past seven years. They have resorted to these measures during the high school diploma examinations to prevent cheating, including by blocking social media platforms like Facebook, X, and WhatsApp to stop the leakage of exam questions. This pattern is a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights, including access to information and freedom of opinion and expression online, and must not be allowed to impact other moments of national importance.

As the country prepares for its presidential election, we call upon the government to refrain from any internet shutdown or censorship.

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT ELECTION-RELATED SHUTDOWNS 

Fighting internet shutdowns requires collaboration, solidarity, awareness raising, and documentation of evidence as shutdowns happen. Under our 2024 Election Watch campaign, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition hope to strengthen our advocacy against shutdowns to harness democratic values globally. We will empower people and communities through awareness-raising, capacity building, and training, as well as equipping them with tools and resources to fight back against shutdowns. The #KeepItOn coalition will continue to engage with governments, private companies, individuals, and stakeholders in countries where elections are upcoming until authorities commit to upholding internet access as a prerequisite for free, fair, and transparent elections. 

Given the growing impact of the internet and digital communications platforms in advancing democracy, we urge all stakeholders – including civil society actors, journalists, human rights defenders, governments, companies, and individuals – to collaborate with the #KeepItOn coalition and join the global movement against shutdowns today.

Learn more about the #KeepItOn coalition and how you can support our fight against shutdowns.

CONNECT WITH US TO HELP FIGHT SHUTDOWNS IN YOUR COUNTRY 

Stop election shutdowns in your country

If you would like to collaborate with us ahead of elections in your country this year, please reach out to #KeepItOn Campaign Manager Felicia Anthonio at [email protected]. Learn more in the #KeepItOn election toolkit, also available in the following languages: 

[English] | [Russian] | [French] | [Spanish] | [Arabic] | [Swahili]

Learn about and prepare for election shutdowns

Are you an election observer, activist, journalist, blogger, or someone else interested in the impact of shutdowns on democratic processes? Want to know how to prepare for disruptions? Read and share our internet shutdowns and election handbook. Refer to the #KeepItOn FAQs for more information about the campaign.

Help us document the harm of election shutdowns

Storytelling can be an extremely powerful advocacy tool. If you’ve experienced an internet shutdown, consider sharing your experience as part of Access Now’s Shutdown Impact Stories project. Use this form (available in several languages), and your story could help inform policy change, challenge shutdown orders in court, and raise awareness about the threats and harms of shutdowns globally.

Advocate against election shutdowns

We rely on a global network to help detect and fight internet shutdowns. You can use the #KeepItOn hashtag to flag shutdown threats and support coalition actions in each of the countries above.

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Authorities in Bangladesh must guarantee unfettered access to the internet and all other digital communication channels through all phases of the election cycle. 

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TOGETHER, WE CAN #KEEPITON