eSwatini govt accused of harming digital communications

09 July 2021

A civil rights group has expressed serious concern over the internet shutdown in eSwatini amid ongoing political protests and has called on South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation to intervene.

According to the organisation. operator MTN eSwatini confirmed that the organisation was experiencing “disruption to services as of Tuesday 29 June”.

Right2Know referenced reports by The East African newspaper that the government ordered eSwatini post and telecommunications, eSwatini mobile as well as Swazi MTN to shut down services and an email was then set up for citizens to express their grievances.

The group released a statement which read in part: “This throttling of communication channels for citizens to petition the government is the most egregious form of censorship and oppression in the continent’s last absolute monarchy.”

It called on South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation to intervene and added: “We call on the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to assist and have the internet lifted as this shutdown is clearly a violation in freedom of expression," the statement said. "We call on eSwatini MTN to open the internet and eSwatini Post and Telecommunications to be opened. It is dangerous in the midst of a pandemic and the 4IR for the government to have this amount of power. In this instance the shutting down of the internet is not only government repression at play but also a violation of the fundamental right to access to information and most of all a human rights violation. The Right2Know calls on the eSwatini government not only to open up channels for citizens to submit petitions, but to engage fully and committed to a constructive solution for all who live in eSwatini. We call on King Mswati III to show true leadership and to listen to the cries for greater democracy and full participation by representative structures.”