#KeepItOn during elections

#KeepItOn in Bangladesh: ensure open, free internet before, during, and after elections 

As people in Bangladesh head to the polls on 7 January, authorities must guarantee unfettered access to the internet and all other digital communication channels through all phases of the election cycle. 

Through an open letter, Access Now, the #KeepItOn coalition, and local and international organisations are calling on the Chief Election Commissioner, Kazi Habibul Awal of Bangladesh, and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairperson, Md. Mohiuddin Ahmed, to ensure people across the country have full access to the internet, social media platforms, and communication channels before, during, and after the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Access Now acknowledges and appreciates the Bangladesh Election Commission’s recent statement ensuring internet connectivity on the polling day, but this commitment needs to include pre and post-polling phases as well. Internet access is vital for reporting, communicating, and accessing information — none of which is restricted to the election day. Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now

Bangladesh has a history of weaponising internet shutdowns to quell dissent, including the suspension of 3G and 4G internet services in the run-up to the general election in 2018. In 2022 alone, there were six incidents of reported shutdowns, and authorities have continued to impede internet services in 2023 as well.

Unhampered access to an open and safe digital sphere is essential for a fair, free, and informed election in Bangladesh. It empowers people to exercise their rights, participate in democratic processes, and combat shrinking civic spaces. Namrata Maheshwari, Asia Pacific Policy Counsel at Access Now

This election year, Bangladesh has a unique opportunity to set an example for democracies across the globe to respect and uphold digital rights.   

Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are urging authorities to:

  • Publicly commit to the people of Bangladesh that the internet, including social media platforms, will remain open, accessible, and secure;
  • Order internet service providers to guarantee high-quality, secure, and unrestricted internet access; 
  • Order the telecom regulator to not thwart, throttle, or in any way undermine the safety of internet; and
  • Direct internet service providers to keep people informed of potential disruptions and take all reasonable steps to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact their quality of service.