SENEGAL: The Senegalese government has restricted access to mobile internet services in certain locations due to deadly rioting in which “hateful and subversive” statements were posted online, it stated on Sunday.
One of the deadliest periods of civil unrest in decades has rocked the West African nation for three days of violent protests that have claimed 16 lives.
Last week, the government restricted access to some messaging services, but many people were able to get around the restriction by using virtual private networks, which hide the user’s location. The outage was extended on Sunday to encompass all data on mobile internet devices in specific locations and at specific times, the statement stated.
It was unclear which areas were affected or at what times, but residents in Dakar reported being unable to access the Internet on Sunday afternoon without a wifi connection, a time of day when protests typically start to pick up speed.
“Because of the spread of hateful and subversive messages, mobile Internet is temporarily suspended at certain hours of the day,” said the statement.
The impetus for the upheaval was Thursday’s sentencing of well-known opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison, which could bar him from taking part in the February presidential election.
Demonstrators have also been infuriated by President Macky Sall’s refusal to rule out running for a third term. The presidential term limit in Senegal is two.
Internet shutdowns to quell protests are common in Africa and date back to the 2011 Arab Spring, when authorities in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya tried to censor the flow of news. Since then, during periods of unrest, Gabon, Gambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other countries have followed suit.
Rights organisations say the action infringes on freedom of speech. Additionally, it can hurt already shaky economies.
During the first round of power outages in Senegal on Friday, a statement was issued that read, “These restrictions… constitute arbitrary measures contrary to international law and cannot be justified by security imperatives.”