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Internet shutdown in Gabon, DR Congo condemned

Africa , 09 Jan 2019

Internet shutdown in Gabon, DR Congo condemned

Internet rights advocacy groups including Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders) have condemned the recent shutdown of internet connectivity in Gabon and DRC.

On 7 January 2019 Gabon experienced an internet shutdown following an attempted military coup.

Connectivity was partially restored after the government reportedly quelled the uprising.

Media reports also stated that the shutdown affected operators Gabon Telecom and its mobile subsidiary Libertis, as well as Airtel.

Abdelkerim Koundougoumi, head of Internet Without Borders, Central Africa, said, "This systematic trend to shut down the internet must stop, it is counterproductive, and violates people's right to access the internet. Far from appeasing, the censorship adds confusion, and increases the risk of chaos."

The organisation also called on the Gabonese authorities to respect citizens' right to information on the situation prevailing in the country.

This is not the first time that the Internet is voluntarily cut by the Gabonese government. In 2016, following the disputed re-election of President Ali Bongo, the government imposed a digital curfew during the month of September.

Also in DRC

The DRC also experienced a disruption to internet connectivity in the wake of the 30 December 2018 elections.

Advocacy group NetBlocks reported full blackout in major cities, including the capital Kinshasa, after results started trickling in on 31 December 2018, with outages impacting mobile and fixed-line connections.

Telecoms operator Vodacom and internet service provider Global, told AFP they cut internet access on the orders of the government.

Authorities issued a statement explaining that the shutdown was aimed at preventing the circulation of fake results online, and to avert "chaos" and a "popular uprising."

Digital rights expert Gbenga Sesan, executive director of Paradigm Initiative, has bemoaned the spate of attacks on internet freedom in Africa.

Speaking at RightsCon 2018, an international conference on digital rights hosted recently in Toronto, Canada, Sesan said, "At Paradigm Initiative, we do this annual report focused on the state of digital rights in Africa. In 2017, we looked at twenty-one African countries and one of the trends we have seen is that things are getting worse. In terms of clamp down on the media, in terms of clamp down on citizens, in terms of using excuses like national security to shut down the internet, things continue to go downhill in many countries across Africa."

In 2018 several African countries disrupted internet access including Sierra Leone, Cameroon and the DRC.

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