Internet shutdown and Democratic Backsliding in Benin
PARIS, April 28, 2019
Internet Without Borders strongly condemns the ongoing Internet blackout in Benin, as citizens are electing Members of Parliament this 28, April 2019.
Sources in Benin and technical measurements by Netblocks have confirmed that social media, messaging apps, and now the whole Internet are currently cut off in the country.
This censorship, a first since President PAtrice Talon came to power, happens as democracy and freedoms are declining in the country: the electoral campaign was marred with cases of repression against the opposition, and this Sunday’s vote takes place after the opposition was barred from presenting candidates.
“Authorities in Benin must preserve the rule of law and Democracy: the freedom of expression of citizens must be protected, even more during the electoral period. We urge the authorities to restore access to the Internet as soon as possible, ” says Qémal Affagnon, West Africa Coordinator at Internet Without Borders.
“Shutting down the Internet on election day only adds suspicion to an already flawed electoral process. Benin is now performing very poorly in terms of democracy, “ adds Mylène Flicka, founder of the media Irawo, and consultant for Internet Without Borders.
The current censorship is the latest episode in series of attacks on social media by the Government of Benin: in September 2018, a tax on their use was adopted, before being suspended following a mobilization of civil society in Benin and abroad, including Internet Without Borders. Recently, new government-imposed prices for Internet data bundles have also caused outrage, viewed by many as a disguised tax on the use of the Internet and social media.