Senegal is experiencing Internet and social media service interruptions as protests over the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko continue. Users of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram and other services found their access restricted beginning Thursday, according to digital rights monitor NetBlocks.
Data for mobile provider Orange (Sonatel) as well as Free (Tigo) showed interruptions in samples taken from 120 sites across Senegal. Users in the West African nation said they were concerned the Telecommunications and Postal Regulatory Authority (ARTP) would shut down the Internet entirely due to ongoing unrest.
At least nine deaths have been reported since Sonko was sentenced this week to two years in jail on charges of immoral behavior towards individuals younger than 21. Sonko avoided more serious convictions on allegations of rape and making death threats.
Sonko and supporters of his Pastef Les Patriotes party say President Macky Sall, elected in 2012, and his government have targeted Sonko in order to keep him from running against Sall next year. Sonko placed third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential elections and protests since have demonstrated popular support for his leadership, including clashes in 2021 that led to 14 deaths.
“Senegal has a history of using social media restrictions to control protests. In 2021, NetBlocks found that authorities limited access to social media and messaging apps, in addition to measures targeting traditional media,” the NetBlocks organization said.
“Senegal’s government has also faced a series of activist cyberattacks over the treatment of Sonko, which brought down several state websites and online platforms hosted on the government ADIE network earlier in the week.”