DR Congo: Reverse the suspension of SMS text-messaging services.
Last week's general election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has ignited significant social unrest and violence across the country, particularly in urban centers. On December 2, Human Rights Watch reported that 18 Congolese citizens died and at least 100 Congolese were seriously wounded as a result of election-related violence. As DRC commentators have observed over the past two weeks, the situation will get worse before it gets better.
During the days following the general election, Congolese government instituted a country-wide ban on SMS text-messaging services, citing reports of inflammatory rhetoric by opposition groups. The DRC's major telecommunications companies--Vodacom, Bharti Airtel, Millicom, and CCT--have readily complied with the government's demands. While their interest in restricting inflammatory text messages is well-intentioned, the SMS ban limits an essential source of information on instances of post-election violence and human rights abuses.
In 2008, during Kenya's post-election violence, the international community observed that SMS-based crowd-sourcing methods have become an essential tool of election monitoring and mass atrocities prevention in conflict zones. With few journalists reporting from the ground in the DRC, SMS technology represents the only opportunity for an active stream of information from grassroots actors and civil society in the DRC.
As concerned global observers and consumers, we're calling on the DRC's major telecommunications companies to reverse their suspension of SMS text-messaging services in the DRC.
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