Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are issuing an urgent call to authorities in Jordan to immediately put an end to the practice of blocking internet access and digital communication platforms across the nation during public demonstrations.
This week, in response to anti-government protests prompted by the announcement of stricter lockdown measures, public uproar over the Defense Law, and the tragic death of nine people in a public hospital, the government constricted access to Facebook live streaming for hours.
“People have the right to hold their government accountable,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “By blocking Facebook streaming, those in power are attempting to obstruct democracy.”
Blocking communication tools is not a safe, fair, or effective manner to navigate high-tension situations. Through an open letter, the coalition is urging authorities in Jordan to:
- End the practice of internet throttling and disruption of internet services including social media and other digital communication platforms, and ensure those to remain open, accessible, inclusive, and secure especially during national events of protests and unrest;
- Clarify the mechanisms and reasons behind these disruptions, and call for more transparency on how the internet is controlled in Jordan; and
- Order telecommunications companies and internet service providers to inform the public and internet users of any potential disruptions and to take all reasonable steps to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact the quality of service they receive.
“Online communication tools must be open and accessible,” said Marwa Fatfta, MENA Policy Manager at Access Now. “They are a gateway to free expression and access to information — and as we continue into our second year of the global pandemic, the role of connectivity cannot be understated.”
Since 2018, internet blockings during public demonstrations and protests have been the censorship tool of choice for the government of Jordan. Escalating in frequency, authorities throttled services during the late 2018 and early 2019 anti-austerity protests, and the 2020 teachers union protests.