Internet Without Borders strongly condemns the Internet shutdown in Gabon on January 7, 2019, following a military coup attempt.Hundreds of thousands of Gabonese remain unable to connect to international bandwidth.
On 7 January 2019 around 04:30 GMT, soldiers took control of the national TV (Radio Télévision Gabonaise), announcing their coup attempt. A few hours later, around 07:00 UTC, the number of Internet connection requests from Gabon dropped sharply, indicating the beginning of an Internet shutdown.The graph below published by the company Cloudflare clearly shows the drop in connection requests:
This analysis is corroborated by RIPE NCC, a Coordination Network for regional Internet Registries.
Matching information is also contained in the latest report by the civil society organization Netblocks, which measures and fights censorship on the Internet worldwide.
The Internet shutdown seems to affect the main operators, Gabon Telecom and its mobile subsidiary Libertis, as well as Airtel.
“The Government must be transparent, and must inform citizens about the reasons for this shutdown, what authorities have ordered it, and most importantly restore connection to citizens,” said Julie Owono, Executive Director of Internet Without Borders.
“This systematic trend to shutdown the Internet must stop, it is counterproductive, and violates people’s right to access the Internet.Far from appeasing, the censorship adds confusion, and increases the risk of chaos, “said Abdelkerim Koundougoumi, in charge of Central Africa at Internet Without Borders.
Internet Without Borders calls on the Gabonese authorities to restore connectivity, and respect citizens’ right to information on the situation prevailing in the country.This is not the first time that the Internet is voluntarily cut by the Government: in 2016, following the disputed re-election of President Ali Bongo, the Government imposed a digital curfew during the whole month of September.