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Iraq’s Elections Must Not Be Tainted By Internet Shutdowns

No to internet shutdowns in Iraq these elections — Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition demand an open, accessible, and secure internet for all.

“Iraq’s long history of shutting down the internet during times of national importance must not repeat during this upcoming election,” said Hayder Hamzoz, Founder of INSM Network for Digital Rights in Iraq. “People in Iraq have the right to access information, express opinion, and communicate with each other — all vital elements of the democratic process.”

Scheduled for October 10, Iraq’s twice postponed general elections are a target for authorities seeking to censor and disconnect the population. The country’s record of shutting down the internet is long and deliberate, and includes a near-total shutdown and blocking of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, and other social and messaging apps throughout large-scale protests in 2019, and shutdowns during unrest in Basra in 2018.

“Time and time again the #KeepItOn coalition has documented internet shutdowns during key national events, like elections and protests,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “And with every hit of the kill switch, we see high-tension situations exacerbated, and people left to fend for themselves in the face of government oppression — making precarious scenarios more difficult to navigate for all.”

Through an open letter, the #KeepItOn coalition is pressuring the government of Iraq to ensure that the internet, social media platforms, and all other communication channels remain open, secure, and accessible throughout the election period and thereafter. Specifically, to:

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

Read the open letter.

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