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Mali: Social Media Blackout

This statement was originally published by MFWA on August 19, 2016.

There has been a suspected social media shutdown in Mali since August 17, 2016.

Reports say citizens are unable to access social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, while WhatsApp and Viber users are experiencing intermittent disruptions.

The social media blackout coincides with a turbulent day in the capital Bamako where a misinformation on social media resulted in a clash between the police and a mob protesting the arrest and “planned prosecution” of a popular journalist Mohamed Bathily.

Reports say supporters of the detained radio presenter, Mohamed Bathily, used social media to mobilise for an invasion of the premises of a Magistrate’s Court in Commune 1 of Bamako where the journalist’s case was lodged.

The MFWA’s correspondent in Mali reported that after the clash between the protesters and the police, gory images of the violent clash which were splashed on social media reportedly fuelled public anger over the police brutalities. Hours later, citizens started complaining about having difficulties accessing the social media sites.

However, the government has denied shutting down or interfering with social media as a counter measure.

According to the MFWA’s correspondent, after a prolonged silence on the matter, the government in an official statement on August 18, denied shutting down or interfering with the social media sites. The Ministry of Communication said the disruption could be due to a technical problem.

The telecommunication regulatory body, Agence Malienne de Régulation des Télécommunications et des Postes (AMRTP), has also denied being involved in the suspected shutdown.

A spokesperson for the army, Modibo Naman Traoré, also told Jeune Afrique magazine that the national security outfit, Direction Générale de la Sécurité d’État (DGSE), have neither ordered nor recommended the shutdown.

Meanwhile, Bathily has been released from detention following the intervention of some influential religious leaders.

The MFWA is deeply concerned with the situation in Mali. We call on the authorities to establish the cause of the seeming shutdown and ensure that access to social media is restored for citizens to enjoy their freedom of expression and digital rights.

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