Image: KeepItOn elections watch 2022

Telcos must stand up for the people of Belarus, keep internet connected during referendum

Read in Russian.

Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are calling on telecommunication service providers in Belarus to resist any governmental  internet shutdown orders, and keep the nation online before, during, and after the constitutional referendum scheduled for February 27, 2022. 

“Nobody has the right to prevent people from exercising their fundamental rights online — not governments, not private companies,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “This week and always, we want fair, open, and free internet access for all in Belarus.”

This weekend’s referendum will be the first national vote in Belarus since the heavily criticized 2020 presidential election and its widely disputed outcome. 

“It seems that authorities in Belarus have had no qualms in hitting the kill switch, and disconnecting the nation from the internet,” said Anastasiya Zhyrmont, Regional Outreach Coordinator (Eastern Europe & Central Asia) at Access Now. “So we’re calling on telcos to make a stand — ensure people have access to information, the right to express themselves, and avenues for communication throughout the referendum.”

Through an open letter, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are calling on telcos in Belarus to:

  • Publicly denounce internet shutdowns and disruptions, and highlight their devastating impact on your customers, telcos, and society at large;
  • Preserve evidence and expose any demands from the government of Belarus attempting to  disrupt internet access, and any pressure to conceal those demands;
  • Publicly disclose details such as when the internet and related services have been disrupted;
  • Contest the legality of internet shutdown orders in court; and 
  • Consult civil society and rally peer companies to jointly push back against government censorship demands, and issue regular transparency reports to ensure open and secure internet access and deter future shutdown orders.

Read the open letter.