eSwatini: ICJ urges multinational mobile telecommunications company MTN to immediately restore internet access in eSwatini

In a letter dated 8 July 2021, ICJ expressed its concerns that the MTN Group has agreed to implement an unlawful request from the Swazi government to disrupt internet access in eSwatini. 

Largely, peaceful pro-democracy protests have been ongoing in eSwatini since late June and show no signs of abating. Participants have exercised their protected rights to freedom of expression and assembly despite concerted efforts by the government which has employed unlawful and excessive force, violence, and live ammunition to stifle, and suppress these protests. These efforts include a government directive to MTN and other internet service providers (ISPs) to disrupt internet access. 

MTN is not obliged to comply with a government internet shutdown order. The right to freedom of expression and to seek, receive and impart information are protected under both the Swazi Constitution and international human rights law.

The internet shutdown in eSwatini is stifling freedom of expression, preventing information-sharing, and exacerbating the plight of affected communities by impeding humanitarian and health access during a global pandemic. This drastic measure imposed by MTN is disproportionate and unnecessary to any legitimate purpose. The internet disruption is violating the human rights of Swazis and it is enabling human rights abuses to continue.

The ICJ calls on MTN to:

  • recognise that its actions have a direct impact on human rights in eSwatini and urges it to immediately restore internet access in the country,
  • publicly disclose a copy of the directive from the eSwatini authorities which is being used as the basis to disrupt internet access in the country, and
  • provide a detailed explanation of how the MTN Group intends to prevent future internet shutdowns of this nature taking place not only in Eswatini but in other countries where its subsidiaries operate. 

Read the letter.


Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Director Africa Programme +27 84 514 8039

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