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Telegram goes offline in Kenya: Civil Society Organizations Demand Answers

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In a nation where the right to access information and communicate freely online is considered fundamental, recent events have brought to light a concerning development.

Telegram, a popular messaging application, has reportedly been intermittently inaccessible for more than a week in Kenya. The timing of this outage coincides with the ongoing national exams, adding an additional layer of complexity to the situation.

The Right to Access Information in Kenya

Kenya has a proud history of upholding the rights of its citizens to access information and communicate freely through various online platforms. Messaging applications, such as Telegram, play a crucial role in facilitating communication and the exchange of information. However, recent disruptions to Telegram services have raised questions about the state of digital freedom in the country.

Ongoing Reports and Concerns

Reports of Telegram being intermittently inaccessible in Kenya have persisted for over a week, prompting concerns among the populace. Notably, these disruptions coincide with the crucial period of national exams, a time when reliable communication is paramount. The situation has sparked worry and frustration among users who rely on Telegram for various purposes, both personal and professional.

Exam Cheating Allegations and the Response

The disruption to Telegram services in Kenya is not isolated but follows allegations of exam cheating. National secondary school examination papers have allegedly been leaked on the messaging platform, leading to concerns about the integrity of the examination process. In response to these allegations, Access Now and the KeepItOn coalition, in collaboration with over 35 civil society organizations in Kenya, have taken a proactive stance.

Open Letter to the Ministry of ICT and ISPs

On November 20, a joint effort by civil society organizations in Kenya, including Access Now and the KeepItOn coalition, took the form of an open letter. The letter was addressed to the Ministry of ICT and internet service providers (ISPs) in Kenya, seeking clarification on the reasons behind the reported disruptions to Telegram.

The open letter calls for transparency and accountability in handling the situation, emphasizing the importance of maintaining digital rights even in times of national significance.

Balancing National Security and Digital Rights

The situation in Kenya reflects the delicate balance that governments worldwide must strike between ensuring national security and upholding citizens’ digital rights. While the allegations of exam cheating are serious and merit investigation, the approach to addressing these concerns should not compromise the fundamental rights of citizens to access information and communicate freely.

Looking Ahead: The Importance of Transparency

As the Ministry of ICT and ISPs in Kenya faces pressure to respond to the open letter, it becomes crucial for all stakeholders to prioritize transparency.

The citizens of Kenya deserve a clear understanding of the reasons behind the disruption to Telegram services and assurance that their digital rights will be safeguarded moving forward.

In conclusion, the recent outage of Telegram in Kenya has sparked concerns about the delicate balance between national security and digital rights. The allegations of exam cheating add a layer of complexity to the situation, highlighting the challenges governments face in navigating the digital landscape.

As civil society organizations advocate for transparency and accountability, the eyes of the world are on Kenya to ensure that the right to access information and communicate freely online remains a cornerstone of its democratic principles.

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