Sudan activists say internet restored after crackdown
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudanese activists said Wednesday the ruling generals restored internet service in the country, following a weekslong blackout imposed during a deadly crackdown early last month.
The long-waited move came a week after the military council and the pro-democracy movement reached a power-sharing deal, ending a three-month standoff since the military removed autocratic President Omar al-Bashir from power amid nationwide demonstrations against his rule.
A group of legal experts has been finalizing the wording of the deal to be signed by both sides in the coming days.
The military council had blocked internet service after security forces razed a protest camp in the capital of Khartoum on June 3, killing over 128 people in an ensuing three-week crackdown, according to protest organizers. Authorities offered a lower death toll of 61, including three security forces.
The Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters, has repeatedly called for internet service restoration. This demand was one of the trust-building measures set by protesters to resume talks with the generals after the violent dispersal of the sit-in.
A telecommunications affiliate of the Sudanese Professional’s Association, which has been spearheading the protests, said that users across the country have been back online. It demanded telecommunication companies compensate users.
People in Sudan have begun posting footage of alleged abuses by security forces against protesters during the break-up.
“The one thing we wanted to see is the videos. .... We saw the horrific scenes, and I closed down the internet and couldn’t open it again,” said Malaz Hassan, student.
Amal al-Zein, an activist, said internet service came back on gradually after a Khartoum court on Tuesday ordered telecommunication companies in Sudan to restore service.
Lawyer Abdel-Azim Hassan sued last month to restore internet service. A court ordered authorities to restore service for Hassan, who then filed another lawsuit demanding internet service be restored for all Sudanese.
“The reason behind blocking internet service was to hide facts, information and evidence related to crimes” committed by security forces in the crackdown, he said.
U.N. human rights experts on Monday denounced measures taken by the authorities to shut down the Internet in Sudan, saying it stifles free expression and association.
“In the past few weeks, we have continued to receive reports on Internet blocking of social media platforms by the Transitional Military Council,” the experts said in a statement.
Late on Tuesday, the NetBlocks observatory said data showed significant restoration of internet service in Sudan, both mobile and fixed-line connections via multiple providers.
It said real-time measurements show no social media or messaging app restrictions via the leading providers that have come online. Current traffic data, however, showed levels remain significantly below June 3 levels, suggesting many users remained offline, NetBlocks added.
The group said internet disruption may cost Sudan’s economy upwards of $1 billion.
Magdy reported from Cairo.