The repeated and unjustifiable use of internet shutdowns during exams by governments across the Middle East and North Africa constitutes a grave violation of international human rights law and standards. Despite the demonstrated failure of this practice as a cautionary measure to stop students from cheating on exams, governments continue to impose exam shutdowns, resulting in public outrage as some essential online services come to a complete standstill.
This not only impacts students but also millions of other people, undermining human rights and disrupting essential social, political, economic, and cultural activities.
That’s why Access Now, SMEX, and the Internet Society are closely monitoring the internet during exams in 2023. Join us to demand authorities guarantee free and open access to the internet at all times. MENA governments must hear our call: #NoExamShutdown!
COUNTRIES WE’RE WATCHING
Baccalaureate Exams: 11 June – 15 June, 2023
Algerian authorities have imposed internet shutdowns during exams since 2016, gradually expanding the scope and scale of these draconian disruptions to include not only platform blocking or disrupting mobile networks but also cutting fixed-line internet connections. Recently, Algerian authorities — from President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to the Minister of Education — promised that they would no longer tolerate internet shutdowns and would explore alternatives. However, they have not kept their promises, blocking access to specific websites and applications in 2022. This makes the Algerian government one of the most egregious serial offenders of exam shutdowns in the MENA region.
Authorities have attempted to justify these harmful disruptions as necessary for securing exams, instead of exploring alternative approaches that would protect people’s rights. That means that year after year, people and businesses suffer.
General Secondary Education Certificate Examination (Tawjihi Exams) – 4 July – 25 July, 2023
Authorities in Jordan have blocked communications platforms since 2015, during the Tawjihi exams. This blocking of apps is taking place without a legal basis, fails to prevent cheating, severely impacts people’s human rights, and disrupts businesses, communications, and access to emergency health services.
Jordanian authorities should find alternative solutions instead of continuing the blocking each year, which threatens to normalize it. Will 2023 be the year Jordanian authorities #KeepItOn during exams?
The Iraqi Ministry of Education has decided to shut down the internet everyday during national exams from 4 AM to 8 AM, a massive backflip after the Ministry of Communications made a commitment to #KeepItOn!
Despite sending a letter to Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, strongly urging him to uphold Iraq’s commitments to respect human rights and decide against the use of internet shutdowns during exams, the Ministry of Education obtained the approval of the Council of Ministers, overturning the initial decision made by the Ministry of Communications.
Final exams – 21 June – 15 July, 2023
The Iraqi government has imposed internet shutdowns during exams since at least as far back as 2015, when authorities ordered a three-hour shutdown of mobile internet services during the national baccalaureate exams. People in Iraq have been suffering from this draconian practice ever since, while authorities fail to acknowledge the grave impact the disruptions have on fundamental rights or explore alternatives that protect people’s rights.
Already this year, at an unusually early stage, Iraq blocked social media and messaging platforms, including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, during an exam session.
Baccalaureate Exams: 14 June – 22 June, 2023
Authorities in Mauritania also impose internet shutdowns during exams. In 2019, authorities blocked access to social media platforms for several hours during the baccalaureate exams, causing inconvenience and disruption for citizens and businesses alike.
The government already has a dismal record of shutting down the internet during key national moments, a pattern authorities reinforced in March 2023, when they shut down mobile internet following a prison outbreak. Join us to hold authorities to account for any further disruptions, regardless of the rationale.
Baccalaureate Exams – 7 June – 26 June
The Syrian regime has weaponized the internet to violently crackdown on its people and commit atrocious human rights violations in Syria, including mass killing, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearance. The Syrian government has routinely disconnected people during exams since 2016. Authorities typically disconnect mobile internet services for at least five hours throughout the national baccalaureate exams schedule. In 2022, authorities went even further, disrupting internet access nationwide during four exam sessions — an unnecessary, ineffective, and flagrant violation of the Syrian people’s fundamental right to access information, free expression, and other basic rights.
With the ongoing conflict in Syria, which already limits access to information, it is imperative that these unjustifiable rights violations stop, and the Syrian government is held accountable for its continued crimes.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
We believe in sharing the stories of people affected by internet shutdowns. If you have experienced an exam-based blackout, please share your story with us using this form.
Join Access Now, SMEX, the Internet Society, and our partners around the world in calling on MENA governments to #KeepItOn and say #NoExamShutdown. Follow us online to get updates and take action to prevent exam shutdowns.
Internet shutdowns to prevent cheating during exams: the impact on society and economy in the MENA region