Eighty freedom of expression organisations from across the globe on March 12, 2019, called on the African Union (AU) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information and the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression to intervene to end the long-running social media blackout in the Republic of Chad.
The organisations said, in a petition that since March 28, 2018, mobile operators in Chad have, on the orders of the government, blocked access to social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.
They alleged that the shutdown is aimed at undermining citizens’ capacity to mobilise through the power of the Internet and social media platforms and thereby quell public protests across the country. This, they pointed out is in breach of Chadians’ rights to freedom of expression and access information online.
The 80 signatory organisations to the petition noted that the social media shutdown in Chad, now the longest network disruption in Africa, violates several international resolutions including the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Resolution, ACHPR Res. 362 (LIX) 2016 which condemns the “emerging practice of State Parties interrupting or limiting access to telecommunication services such as the internet, social media and messaging services.”
They lamented that the government of President Idriss Deby has refused to heed several calls to end the shutdown despite the 11-month old social media blackout grounding activities of students, schools and businesses that rely on the internet.
The organisations lamented that: “Repeated appeals by local, regional and international rights groups on the Idriss Deby-led administration to restore access to social media platforms have proved futile”.
They therefore called on the African Union’s (AU) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Lawrence Murugu Mute and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye to intervene to ensure that access to social media is restored in Chad.