Fair elections in Guinea? Keep the internet open

UPDATE: October 29 — Guinea’s 2020 presidential elections were tarnished by a last minute internet shutdown on October 23, that plunged the nation into darkness as the election results were to be announced.

“The government of Guinea shutdown the internet at an incredibly important time for the nation,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “It’s disappointing, undemocratic, and simply deflating. President Alpha Condé has no right muzzling the people, yet walks away with a contentious third term as leader.”

It initially appeared that the government was keeping the people of Guinea connected throughout this critical national event, with open internet access reported on polling day, October 18. However, in a similar fashion to the referendum shutdowns conducted in March this year, free expression and access to information was stifled across the country.

The #KeepItOn coalition is calling for complete transparency from the government of Guinea about why and how services were disrupted.

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For the Republic of Guinea’s presidential elections to be fair and democratic, President Alpha Condé must ensure a stable and open internet before, during, and after polling day — scheduled for October 18, 2020. 

The internet plays a crucial role in elections, and the Guinean people have the right to actively participate in the voting process, engage in public discourse, and hold their elected leaders to account,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “The Republic of Guinea’s democratic landscape has been tarnished in recent years by government-mandated internet shutdowns, which bring the credibility of election outcomes into question. The whole word is watching, and we won’t let this suppression of a nation happen again — not today, not tomorrow, not during the 2020 presidential elections.”

Access Now and 33 organizations, via an open letter, are sending an urgent appeal to the government of Guinea to:

  • Ensure that the internet, including social media and other digital communication platforms, remains open, accessible, and secure;
  • Publicly assure the people of the Republic of Guinea that the internet and all social media platforms will be on, and to notify the public of any disruptions; and
  • Order internet service providers to provide quality, secure, free, and open internet throughout the elections.

This public call to stay connected comes in the wake of recorded incidents of network disruptions on March 21 and 22, 2020, during the country’s referendum on constitutional reforms.