Assad regime should remember obligation to protect access to communications, says International Telecommunications Union
Syria” ‘s government should restore and mobile access “as a matter of priority”, the secretary-general of the International Telecommunications Union has said, criticising “in the strongest possible terms” the blockage imposed on Thursday.
Speaking ahead of the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai next week, Dr Hamadoun Touré said the Assad government should remember its obligations to protect access to communications under the International Telecommunication Treaty.
“I wish to speak out in the strongest possible terms against any action that impedes access to communications,” he said. “I call on the government of Syria to investigate the reports today of problems accessing the internet and mobiles, and to take any remedial measures required to restore people’s access.”
Syria’s government-controlled telecommunications company cut internet and mobile access to the entire country on Thursday, apparently to prevent rebel forces from communicating with the outside world. Internet traffic dropped to zero in a matter of minutes when connections were cut.
Touré said that all 193 member countries of the ITU, including Syria, which have signed up to its constitution are bound to protect people’s right to communicate and access critical communications infrastructure.
Touré said the ITU, which is the United Nation’s telecommunications wing, also denounced Egypt when it cut off internet access last year, and the regime in Burma three years ago.
The move to shut down the internet, mobile networks and close Damascus airport was apparently part of an attempt to obstruct a co-ordinated rebel offensive on the capital. The country’s information minister blamed terrorists, though five networks that remained live have been associated with a previous government-orchestrated attack on the opposition.
Several technology companies in the US have terminated hosting arrangements for Syrian government sites after they were instructed to comply with sanctions against Assad’s regime.