The Republic of Ghana’s National Communications Authority (NCA) has pledged to keep the internet and digital communications tools accessible and open throughout the election period — and civil society is holding it to account.
With Ghana’s general election scheduled for Monday, December 7, remarks made by a member of the political opposition that the authority planned to disrupt services during this crucial national event caused a stir. But shutdown rumours were met swiftly with the NCA stating, “Ghanaians should disregard the remarks as they were completely unfounded”.
“The #KeepItOn coalition is happy to see Ghana’s National Communications Authority make a commitment to uphold accessible internet throughout the country’s upcoming election, and help ensure the integrity and democracy of such an important, influential event,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “Civil society is watching to see if the government will back down on its word, or uphold its reputation as a leader in the region.”
Access to the internet plays a key role in democracy, and enables people to obtain information, actively participate in the voting process, engage in public discourse, and hold elected leaders to account. Ghana’s record in this respect is clean, as throughout the last general election in 2016, authorities upheld free and open access to the internet and digital communication tools.
Through an open letter, 32 civil society organizations are calling on the government of Ghana to:
- Ensure that the internet, including social media and other digital communication platforms, remains open, accessible, and secure across the Republic of Ghana throughout the elections;
- Order the various internet service providers operating in the country to provide quality, secure, free, inclusive and open internet throughout the elections, inform internet users of any disruptions, and work around the clock to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact the quality of service they receive; and
- Publicly assure the people of the Republic of Ghana that the internet and all social media platforms will be on throughout the election period.
The appeal comes amongst a spate of shutdowns and blockings implemented by governments in the region — from Togo to Tanzania — during elections, protests, and other national events.