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Telegram in Kenya: keep people connected during national exams

Update: December 5, 2023 — authorities lifted the Telegram block in Kenya on November 24, the last day of national exams.

November 20, 2023: People in Kenya have the right to access information and communicate freely online — including through messaging applications like Telegram.

There have been ongoing reports of Telegram being intermittently inaccessible for more than a week in Kenya, where national exams are taking place. Access Now and the KeepItOn coalition together with more than 35 civil society organizations in Kenya have today, November 20, reached out to the  Ministry of ICT and internet service providers (ISP) in Kenya via an open letter demanding clarification on how and why access has been blocked.

Internet shutdowns during exams are not a new phenomenon, but they cannot be ignored. With its good track record, Kenya should not go down this slippery slope of imposing shutdowns and blocking online services. Felicia Anthonio #KeepitOn Campaign Manager, Access Now

The blocking follows alleged exam cheating with national secondary school examination papers allegedly being leaked on Telegram.

The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) data shows an ongoing disruption affecting Telegram from at least November 8 on Jambonet (Telkom) where it has been persistently blocked until at least November 15.

There has been no communication from authorities or service providers with regard to Telegram’s inaccessibility despite many people who use the platform seeking answers as to why they cannot connect without a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

The open letter asks for information on:

  • why Telegram has been blocked in Kenya; 
  • when the Telegram blockade will be lifted;
  • which law/policy/regulation was relied upon to block Telegram in Kenya; and
  • which government agency, if any, requested or asked that Telegram be blocked in Kenya.
Blocking a messaging platform for an entire population is a disproportionate measure to take in combating exam cheating. Authorities and internet service providers in Kenya must answer civil society’s questions and remain transparent as to what has caused this outage. Bridget Andere, Senior Policy Analyst, Access Now

Access Now invites the concerned authorities to publicly comment on the pertinent issues raised, and immediately restore access to Telegram for all.