Eighty freedom of expression and media rights organisations across the world have 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 Chad.
In a petition signed on Tuesday March 12, 2019, the press freedom organisations said 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.
The petitioners alleged that the shutdown is aimed at quelling public protests across the country by undermining citizens’ capacity to mobilise through the power of the Internet and social media platforms, which is in breach of Chadians’ freedom of expression online and the right to access information.
The 80 signatories to the petition noted that the social media shutdown in Chad, which is now the longest network disruption in Africa, violates several 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.”
The petitioners lamented that while the eleven month-old social media blackout has grounded the activities of students, schools and businesses that rely on the internet, the government of President Idriss Deby has refused to heed several calls to end the shutdown.
“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”, the petitioners said.
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.