While more people make their way into the internet, it is no surprise that the amount of electronic violence against women also rises and it is not a new phenomenon on the world but is dealt as part of violence and discrimination that women and girls face offline and online throughout their lives. While awareness rising about using secure and safe Internet is not common in Somalia and there is limited data on online harassment and violence, the problem is often overlooked in discussions of violence against women and is not perceived as a serious form of violence or an issue in Somalia and women do not often speak about online harassment and violence.

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The recent heated debates on Mogadishu’s representation in the Upper House and arrangements for the upcoming federal elections by the Lower House  and public remarks and speeches by some senior government officials, politicians and other prominent figures triggered inflammatory and hate speech, disinformation  and confrontation among Somali social media users.

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The online users and access to internet have been getting momentum in Somalia and at the same time, the breaches of social media have been on the rise. People log in to their social media site and notice a string of posts or messages definitely not posted by them or they get a message that their account password has been changed without their knowledge.

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Author ByAbdikhayr M. Hussein

It is five years since Somali rebel group al-Shabab banned the use of internet through mobile handsets and fibre optic cables throughout Somalia. The ban has been effective in the areas controlled by Al-Shabab in the South Central Somalia where the group has an active presence.

This has unfortunate repercussions for economic, education and technology growth in the areas controlled by Al-Shabab. While the people in the other regions of Somalia has internet connection and use over their phones, Al-Shabab cut off areas under their control from the rest of the country and the world and reducing them to silence. By preventing the public from using the Internet in the areas it controls, Al-Shabaab is launching an unprecedented offensive against freedom of information and there is little progress on lifting these restrictions.

There are several fibre optics cables in Somalia, but in the South Central Somalia where Al-Shabab has presence, has only one cable that is limited to Mogadishu. As Al-Shabab has been losing ground to Somalia’s internationally recognised government troops and African Union peacekeepers,  there is little progress on easing restrictions on the internet in the liberated areas.

The Internet offers unprecedented opportunities for the realisation of human rights, and plays an increasingly important role in our everyday lives. It is essential that all actors respect and protect human rights on the Internet. Therefore, I urge Al-Shabaab to lift this ban at once and that the Internet Providers ease such restrictions in the areas liberated by the Somalia’s internationally recognised government troops and African Union peacekeepers.

Article Contributor: Abdikhayr M. Hussein