It’s becoming commonplace in many African nations: as an election approaches, the internet goes dark. Gabon is the latest country to employ internet censorship during a closely contested election, but other countries, including Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Chad, Mali, Zimbabwe and the Republic of Congo have used the tactic this year, either during elections or in response to protests, VOA reports:
Observers say that as internet access becomes a necessity in the lives of many people, a dialogue is needed on how to balance security and openness. Right now, many countries simply opt for an information blackout when faced with unrest. The organization Access Now, an advocacy group studying global digital risks, reported that there have been 40 widespread Internet disruptions in 25 countries this year alone.
“In the African context, where do you separate democracy and security?” asked Kamissa Camara, a West and Central Africa political analyst at the National Endowment for Democracy, in an interview with VOA Afrique. “Is security more important than democracy? Do you place it above democracy? And who decides that the fact that young people use social networks threatens security in the country? These are the big questions to which I don’t have an answer.”