"The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people."
- Jon Ronson
No matter the reason or excuse, banning an entire country of over 15 million people from accessing social media services is indeed an abuse of their fundamental human rights to information, association and freedom.
It is exactly one year since Chadians have been made to live in Stone Age with access to social media and the Court of Appeal in the country has thrown out a petition to uplift the ban, supporting the government on the decision which they say will remain indefinitely.
You will recall that the ban was placed in March last year after the country’s national conference approved changes to the constitution which will allow the president, Idriss Deby remain in office until 2033.
Citizens took to social media to express their displeasure of the decision as they called on the African Union (AU) and the international community to come to their aid in ensuring democracy in the land and oppose tyranny.
Some lawyers in the country yesterday filed an application to the Appeal Court petitioning the government and seeking an order that will compel the government to lift the tear long ban; but to their surprise and the surprise of concerned individuals all over the world, the application was thrown out by the court.
The actions of the courts have no doubt given credit to claims by critics that the integrity of the judiciary in the country has been compromised, something they said was evident when they approved the constitutional change last year.
According to the government, the ban on the use of social media service providers in the country became necessary after it was noticed that “these applications have helped to organize anti-government protests which in turn threaten internal security.” How so?
It is disheartening that despite repeated calls by freedom of speech and internet rights groups all over the world for the ban to be lifted, the Chadian government continues to pay deaf ears.
It is surprising that a government in the 21st Century will make such a move regardless of the various consequences. The law to ban the use of social media service providers within a country has become the new bread-and-butter of African governments in recent times.
Chad is not the only African country to have switched off the internet for political and security reasons. Gabon did so briefly in the face of a coup attempt early this year.
You will recall that Sudan also suffered the same fate for certain periods but services have since been restored. Zimbabwe also experienced the same.
The Democratic Republic of Congo cut internet and social media signals after the December 2018 polls. It was only restored after a president was declared in the person of Felix Tshisekedi.
What are your thoughts on such actions by the government to ban social media?
Header Image Credit: West Herald