In an effort to counter the national protest movement, the Sudanese government began to block popular social media platforms in the country.

Provoked in late December by rising bread and fuel prices as well as a cash shortage in local banks and ATMs, Sudanese demonstrators razed the ruling party headquarters in the city of Atbara, triggering protests across the country that have now entered their third week.

According to the protesters themselves, the aim of the movement is to “overthrow the regime” of President Omar al-Bashir, who took power back in 1989 and has been keeping the country in his grip ever since.

In retaliation, the Sudanese authorities have blocked access to the main social media platforms used by the demonstrators to coordinate and broadcast the ongoing protest movement.

“While Sudan has a long history of systematically censoring print and broadcast media, online media has been relatively untouched despite its exponential growth in recent years,” said Mai Truong of US-based advocacy group Freedom House. “The authorities have only now started to follow the playbook of other authoritarian governments.”

Users of Sudan’s three major internet providers – Zain, MTN, and Sudani – reported facing “severe difficulties” when trying to use WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, with access only being possible “through use of a virtual private network (VPN).”

Needless to say, if there ever was a time to use a VPN in Sudan, it’s now.

With dozens of Sudanese citizens “shot by government forces” during ongoing unrest in the past weeks, ability to circumvent Sudan’s social media blackout and access information in real time is crucial not only to the activists organizing the demonstrations but also to ordinary people simply trying to stay safe.

If you’re in Sudan right now and are looking for a way to bypass the government’s social media blockade, take a look at our Top 4 picks for secure and reliable free VPNs to help you unblock WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as keep your internet connection free from government surveillance.