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Digital rights groups round on Mali govt over internet disruptions

Digital rights groups round on Mali govt over internet disruptions

Digital rights organisations have accused Mali's government of having establishing a track record for disrupting internet access and have warned the situation should not be allowed to continue.

West Africa-based internet advocacy group Paradigm Initiative issued a statement asserting there is still concern over internet access in the country following the disputed poll which saw President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita reelected for another five-year term.

"These disruptions of the registered Internet networks are added to those of the last months in the country. The disruption of social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Skype is also a regular practice used by the government to impede communication between people during elections and limit the actions of opponents. In view of the situation, Paradigm Initiative as well as all civil society organisations remind the Malian government that such acts violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) declarations on the freedoms of the Internet and the Internet Governance of the African Union (AU)."

The organisation called on authorities to restore all internet networks throughout the country "while refraining from causing further disruption in the post-election period."

Internet governance organisation NetBlocks Group confirmed that its network observatory has identified disruptions to the internet that it believes is intentional.

The organisation added that shutdowns are not uncommon in the country which continues to have low internet access and only one licensed ISP. research states that the country features a low take-up of fixed-line internet services, while states that as of December 2017, Mali had 12,480, 176 internet users representing 65.3% of the population.

In its report covering the downtime experienced during the recent elections, NetBlocks stated: "Despite the low rates of internet and mobile connectivity, the government of Mali continues to order shutdowns. In June 2017, Twitter and Facebook were censored by Mali authorities during street protests against the referendum on the constitutional reform project."

Renata Avila, Senior Digital Rights Advisor at the Web Foundation, said, "If elections rely heavily on the internet, we must ensure all voices are heard - particularly those that are already marginalised. This means not only ensuring all geographies are covered by internet infrastructure, but that people can afford to connect, have the language skills and digital literacy to engage, and an understanding of how to achieve impact using digital media."

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa estimates that "over a combined period of 236 days since 2015, internet interruptions in Africa led to deficits of at least over US$235 million."

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