Chad to continue social media ban, after a year’s blackout.

The censorship of social networks has plunged citizens back into isolation

Lawyers in Chad, presented an application to the courts seeking an order to force government to lift a social media blackout.

The Appeals Court struck the case out allowing the government to continue the blackout.

For the last year, Chadians have been denied access to major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Viber.

Digital activists first started reporting in March last year, that access to the sites on the country’s two main mobile operators, Tigo Chad and Airtel, had been restricted. Telecom companies have since confirmed the government’s restriction orders Activists have viewed the shutdown as a violation of international law, hurting vital economic industries and depriving users of connecting with family and friends at home and abroad.

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“The censorship of social networks has plunged citizens back into isolation,” says Abdelkerim Yacob of digital advocacy group Internet Sans Frontières (ISF). The lengthy cut-off, he added, has “cut Chadians out of the global conversation and curbed digital development.”

The social media cut-off constitutes one of the longest shutdowns in Africa, after a 230-day internet blackout in Cameroon last year. Gabon did so briefly in the face of a coup attempt early this year, Sudan, currently suffering anti-government protests imposed a similar measure but has since restored the signal. Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, cut signal after the December 2018 polls. It was only restored after a president was declared.

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As research has shown, the censorship also has the effect of strangling economic entrepreneurship and development. Across the continent, tools like WhatsApp have become the 21st-century marketplace, allowing businesses to reach customers in urban and rural areas.

Chad’s shutdown began after a national gathering of politicians and traditional chiefs last March, passed constitutional changes allowing President Idriss Deby, who has ruled the country since 1990, to rule until 2033. The changes later re-imposed a two-term limit allowing Deby to serve two more term limits after the next polls in 2021. Deby and his regime have in recent years, faced growing public protests over austerity measures, increased economic hardship following a drop in oil prices, and violence between ethnic groups.

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To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the cut-off, activists convened in N’Djamena on Thursday to discuss a way out of the crisis. 

The shutdown’s impact has been compounded by the country’s already low internet access rates and costly data bundles, which has cost the economy tens of millions of dollars.

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