Senegal Imposes Second Internet Blackout This Year Amid Political Tensions


The Senegalese government recently announced fresh restrictions on internet access starting Monday. The move aims to curb the spread of hateful messages on social media, according to the country’s communications minister Moussa Bocar Thiam.

The latest shutdown follows opposition leader Ousmane Sonko being charged Saturday with insurrection and other offences. This marks Senegal’s second internet blackout this year amid political tensions.

In January, authorities limited social media usage after Sonko’s sentencing to two years in prison. His Patriotes Africains du Sénégal Pour le Travail party had tweeted for citizens to protest the verdict.

At the time, Senegal’s Ministry of Communication justified restricting mobile internet to block hateful and provocative content disturbing public order. Telephone operators were required to comply with the government’s orders.

These repeated blackouts are concerning, given Senegal’s reputation as one of Africa’s more stable democracies. In 2021, the country also disabled apps after a protester died clashing with police.

Citizens have described hardships from losing internet access this year. With communications channels down, people must use VPNs to access blocked platforms. Independent media outlets also get blocked when criticising the regime.

Experts say shutdowns hamper free speech and violate rights. Additionally, Senegal’s economy loses millions with interrupted banking, transactions, and business activities. By one estimate, 8 million users have been impacted, costing $16.7 million.

While governments argue blackouts manage cybercrime and prevent false news, unlimited power to restrict the internet poses risks. Shutdowns often aim to suppress government criticism and opposition activities.

Senegal faces unrest if unstable politics continue, despite its standing as a model African democracy. But dissent and dialogue get silenced when authorities repeatedly block internet access. A more reasoned approach is needed to address divisions without infringing on citizens’ digital rights.



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