Update — January 17, 2024: On the eve of elections, Peter Kazadi, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Interior affairs, made a commitment during a press conference that the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will ensure unhindered internet access throughout the electoral process. Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition welcomes this development and will continue to engage with Congolese authorities to #KeepItOn.
Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are calling on President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to ensure people across the country have full access to the internet, social media platforms, and communication channels throughout the general elections on December 20, 2023. Read the open letter.
This push to maintain internet access comes after authorities in the DRC shut down internet access and SMS services for 20 days during the 2018 elections, alleging the need to preserve public order and prevent the circulation of false election results. According to UN reports, the shutdown hindered electoral observers and witnesses in remote polling stations from communicating with central centers compiling election results. Authorities also weaponized internet shutdowns and cracked down on press freedom in 2017 and 2018.
With European Union election observers and other observation groups not being deployed throughout the 2023 election period, it is more vital than ever to have secure and open communication channels to help uphold transparency and integrity.
Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are urging authorities to:
- Publicly assure the people of the Republic of DRC that the internet will remain open, accessible, inclusive, and secure across the country before, during, and after the election;
- Refrain from ordering the disruption of telecommunications services, social media platforms, and other digital communication platforms;
- Ensure that telecommunications and internet service providers (ISPs) implement all necessary measures to provide high-quality, secure, unrestricted, and uninterrupted internet access throughout the election period and thereafter, in line with their quality of service and license conditions; and
- Ensure that telecommunication providers and ISPs inform the people of DRC of any potential disruptions, and to take all reasonable steps to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact the quality of service they receive.