Slightly more than half of 65 nations reviewed in the new Freedom on the Net 2019 report show a decline in access, democratic protections for speech, and related Internet and social media rights – with Sudan showing one of the biggest drops and Zimbabwe not far behind.
The annual report from Freedom House in the UK said Sudan’s scores dropped because of the crisis surrounding the April ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir and the fight to create a civilian government in its place.
“Authorities blocked social media platforms on several occasions during the crisis, including a two-month outage, in a desperate and ultimately ineffective attempt to control information flows,” the report said. “The suspension of the constitution and the declaration of a state of emergency further undermined free expression in the country.”
Zimbabwe saw its decline beginning with the affordability of Internet access amid the ongoing economic crisis. “As civil unrest spread throughout the country, triggering a violent crackdown by security forces, authorities restricted connectivity and blocked social media platforms,” the report said.
Ethiopia saw the biggest improvements, while South Africa remained the sub-Saharan region’s only true free state in terms of Internet and social media use.
“There is no more time to waste,” the organization warns. “Emerging technologies such as advanced biometrics, artificial intelligence, and fifth-generation mobile networks will provide new opportunities for human development, but they will also undoubtedly present a new array of human rights challenges.”
The complete report is available here.