Belarus must keep it on!

Keep people connected in Senegal

Content note: this post contains references to sexual assault.

UPDATE — June 4, 2023: Following several days of ongoing protest, the Senegalese government has extended its disruptions to include blocking mobile internet.

UPDATE — June 2, 2023: Authorities in Senegal are also blocking Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, and YouTube, starting June 1.

The government of Senegal must ensure people’s right to connect — to communications apps and each other — at all times.

It appears WhatsApp and Twitter have been blocked as demonstrations took place in the city of Ziguinchor, and across the country. The protests are in response to Ousmane Sonko, an opposition figure, being charged with rape and issuing death threats against Adij Sarr, and receiving a two-year prison sentence for “immoral behaviour towards individuals younger than 21.” The Minister of Interior, Antoine Diome confirmed the social media shutdown as a “necessary measure” by the government to prevent the spread of violence and hatred on those platforms. 

People have the right to express themselves — in-person and online. Platforms like WhatsApp and Twitter facilitate freedom of speech, help people connect, and are mediums for timely information. Authorities in Senegal have no right to restrict the population’s access to online tools under the guise of ‘preventing violence and hatred’ — it’s disproportionate, ineffective, and can exacerbate already tense situations. Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now

This is not the first time the government has disrupted internet access in Senegal, who hit the kill switch and disconnected televisions stations when Ousmane Sonko’s high-profile arrest was made in 2021. Authorities across many countries, including in Africa, regularly implement internet shutdowns and blockings during protest in an attempt to control narratives and quash unrest. 

This increasing desire by governments across Africa to censor and silence millions must end. Whether in Senegal, Guinea, or Ethiopia, governments must uphold human rights, and keep people connected. Bridget Andere, Africa Policy Analyst at Access Now

In times of unrest, people need the internet. The government of Senegal must #KeepItOn.