Government In Gabon Threatens To Shutdown The Internet
In 2016, a dangerous trend seems to spread in Central Africa region: during major political events, Internet access is shutdown or heavily disrupted, with social media blocked. This happened during presidential election in the Republic of Congo, and Chad, allegedly to prevent the dissemination of false rumors, and protect public order. In reality, this method is used to curb online expression of dissent, diminish the flow of information coming from a country, and prevent citizens and civil society to organize protests on social media platforms.
Internet Sans Frontières welcomes this statement, but will maintain a high level of vigilance, due to the tensed political environment, suspicion over use of mass surveillance tools by the Government, and uncertainty on the interpretation of public order by the latter.
Background on Gabon’s presidential election
Located in Central Africa, Gabon has gone through turmoil in its recent political History. When former president Omar Bongo passed away in 2009, he led the country for 42 years, many hoped (fr) that the presidential election organized in August of the same year would bring in a new political figure. Eventually, his son Ali Bongo was declared winner, in spite of the multiple irregularities observed. In his seven years mandate, opposition groups challenged Ali Bongo’s legitimacy as a president; recently, his eligibility to seek a second term was subject to debate.
The August 27, election is due to take place in this tensed atmosphere. President Ali Bongo expressed fears of possible unrest in the country.
A country familiar with mass surveillance?
Recently, Gabon has been referred to as a country suspected of using mass surveillance tools, in order to target dissidents and opposition leaders.