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After 16-months of censorship, social media access is back online in Chad

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After a 16-month ban on social media sites, the Central-African country Chad has now lifted the internet restrictions. From early 2018, the citizens of Chad couldn’t access social media networks such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.

“I instruct the competent electronic communication services to immediately lift all restrictions on access to all social networks,” said the president of Chad, Idriss Deby.

While the president Deby said that the restriction was enforced for security reasons, it is to be noted that the decision was implemented right after the country’s parliament recommended to keep Deby in the office until 2033 through a controversial amendment to their constitution.

“For a country like Chad that has gone through dark times, it is not permissible for the internet to be hijacked for malicious purposes by certain individuals with evil intentions for peace and national unity,” said Deby.

Several activists have pointed out that the social media blackout was simply used for silencing the rising discontentment among citizens. The current president came into power in the year 1990. Ever since then, Deby had been the only president the country has ever seen.

Similar to this social media ban, there was an internet ban that was enforced in the year 2016 right after a rising dispute over the presidential vote that made Deby the president for a fifth term.

Such repeated bans and restrictions will result in decreased internet-literacy. Only 6.5% of the 15 million-plus citizens in the country were found to access the internet, said the World bank. Several analysts have expressed that such repeated bans may further reduce the country’s exposure to social media.

The NGO network Internet Without Borders welcomed the decision and said that the internet must not be used for political interests.

“We remain vigilant, we must now obtain a reduction in the cost of access and an improvement in the quality of the Internet in Chad. We call on the government, telecommunication operators, and the Chadian civil society to collaborate to this end,” said Abdelkerim Yacoub Koundougoumi, the Central Africa director of Internet Without Borders.

Many African countries have faced such internet restrictions in the past. For instance, Ethiopia, Sudan and Zimbabwe are a few among the many countries to face internet blackouts in 2019.

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