JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The Committee to Protect Journalists  joined more than 20 rights groups in urging the Zimbabwean government to restore internet and social media services blocked during a nationwide protest against a steep fuel price increase which turned violent.

Police said three people, including a member of the force, were killed during demonstrations which saw angry protesters block roads with stones and ransack and loot shops in major cities.

In response, internet services had been cut off on government orders. The restrictions were only lifted late Wednesday.

CPJ Africa Programme Coordinator Angela Quintal, speaking before internet services were restored, said the government in Zimbabwe should take action to ensure a free and open media environment, which means swiftly reestablishing internet and social media access adding that the shutdown disrupts the free flow of information and create a cover of darkness that shields human rights abuses from public scrutiny.

“Journalists and media workers cannot contact sources, gather information, or file stories without digital communications tools.”

The South African government issued a brief statement regarding the shutdown in Zimbabwe saying that it is being monitored.