The government of Zimbabwe blocked access to social media platforms and the Internet, according to Internet users in the country. The shutdown came after five people had been killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces in protests against a recent increase in the price of fuel in Zimbabwe. On 16 January, Econet, one of the largest internet services provider in Zimbabwe, confirmed that it had halted users’ internet access on government orders. On the same day, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting denied the shutdown occurred and stated that that Internet users were just experiencing congestion.
Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.
Internet access is growing rapidly, yet large groups of people remain unconnected to the Internet. As of 2015, about 43% of people had access to the Internet (in developing countries only 34%). Access to ICTs is part of the Sustainable Development Agenda, which commits to ‘significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’ (Goal 9.c).