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MTN transparency could shed new light on digital blackouts in Africa

For too long, the poor disclosure record of Africa’s leading internet service provider, MTN, has impacted the human rights of more than 190 million people.

Upon recent changes in MTN’s corporate leadership, civil society issued a renewed call for accountability, human rights-centric business practices, and collaboration in fighting internet shutdowns and slowdowns. 

Access Now welcomes MTN’s response to that call, as well as the publication this week of MTN’s first-ever transparency report.

“We are very glad to see MTN’s statement highlighting its commitment to protect and respect the human rights of its customers. It’s a timely first step for a company with an opaque history, and track record of internet shutdowns,” said Berhan Taye, Africa Policy Manager at Access Now. “Although this is only the beginning, we hope it signifies a change in mindset — that ISPs are enablers of human rights, not gatekeepers — and paves the way for a transparent future that sets a precedent for telcos across Africa.”

“Every company that collects our data should regularly report on who they share it with, how they’re processing our sensitive information, and what they do to push back against government interference,” said Isedua Oribhabor, Business and Human Rights Lead at Access Now. “With its new transparency report, MTN Group will be added to our Transparency Reporting Index, becoming the second but not the last African firm to join this list.” 

Pressure mounted against MTN in recent years, as civil society banded together to demand human rights take center place in its business practices, including from ARTICLE 19, African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Coalition, Association for Progressive Communications, Center for Human Rights in Iran, Centre for Human Rights at University of Pretoria, Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Paradigm Initiative (PIN), Ranking Digital Rights (RDR), and The B Team.