#KeepItOn coalition to The Gambia: uphold democracy this election, keep people connected

Update: December 13 The #KeepItOn coalition received no reports of internet shutdowns during The Gambia’s 2021 presidential elections. Access Now acknowledges the government’s commitment to open, fair internet access throughout this year’s voting process, and will continue to monitor The Gambia to ensure this commitment is upheld moving forward.

December 1: The government of The Gambia shut down the internet on the eve of the 2016 presidential elections. But as the nation prepares for the next vote on December 4, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition have a clear message for authorities: uphold democracy and keep the nation connected.

“The Gambia is on the #KeepItOn coalition’s radar,” said Marianne Díaz Hernández, #KeepItOn Fellow at Access Now. “We will not sit back and allow authorities to shut down the internet and plunge the nation into digital darkness during the 2021 presidential elections.”

Although the current  administration has not deliberately disrupted the internet, there have been frequent network disruptions attributed to undersea cable cuts that affected access approximately four times in 2021 alone. 

“The previous government shut down the internet in The Gambia, but we’re looking to the current government to set a higher standard,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “By safeguarding internet connectivity to all before, during, and after the December 4 vote, it is an opportunity to prove to the nation, and the neighbours, that internet shutdowns have no place in democracy.”

Through an open letter to President Adama Barrow and the government, the coalition is asking authorities to:

  • Ensure full internet access nationwide, and refrain from arbitrarily blocking access to social media platforms, and websites of media outlets;
  • Publicly assure the people of The Gambia that the internet and all other digital communication platforms, will remain open, accessible, inclusive, and secure;
  • Order all internet service providers in The Gambia to provide everyone with high-quality, secure, inclusive, and unrestricted internet access; and
  • Order all internet service providers to inform 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.

Alarmingly, a growing number of countries have been shutting down the internet throughout elections and other important events. See who voted in 2021, and which governments disrupted the internet.

Read the full letter.