Internet Shutdown in Chad Hits 300-Day Mark

The people of Chad have been experiencing an Internet shutdown for the past 300 days.

The shutdown began with an order by the sitting government last March to close access to social media. The mandate was given in coordination with the upcoming presidential campaign season, which began last April and continued until December. Elections resulted in the re-election of Idriss Déby who has ruled for 29 years.

Last March also saw politicians attempt to alter the constitution so that president Déby could rule undisputed until 2033, which resulted in demonstrations and activism. The shutdown was likely ordered on the basis of this controversial political moment.

This is not the first violation of Chadian access to online platforms. Extreme sexual violence against a school girl, Zouhoura, in Chad’s capital in 2016 lead to mass demonstrations, organized and coordinated over social media using the hashtag #jesuiszouhoura (#iamzouhoura). President Idriss Déby reacted by enacting a partial social media shutdown and blocking the use of Facebook.

This action and other actions by Chad’s government, which limit free access to the internet and social media, contradict Chad’s agreement to conform to U.N. articles 19 and 33, which guarantee these freedoms as human rights.

According to a study by NetBlocks, government censorship in Chad focuses on blocking online connectability through cutting off messaging and social media services.

Chad is not the only African country to experience inaccessibility to the internet. Zimbabwe’s high court recently made international headlines by ruling that executive actions made by the Minister of State for Security, which led to an internet shutdown, were unconstitutional. As a result, the high court ordered the reopening of internet access. Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have also experienced internet shutdowns due to political movements this month.

On January 19th, activist group Internet Without Borders launched a global campaign to advocate for the people of Chad’s access to the internet and social media, with demonstrations in Paris and N’Djamena. Moving forward the group intends to raise money to purchase VPN (virtual private network) access for Chadians, which will allow them to browse the internet without government retaliation and come up with new initiatives each month.

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