On the eve of the presidential run-off elections on 11 August 2018, authorities in Mali went ahead to restrict Internet access in the country. The Internet shutdown has been confirmed by on the ground reports from people in Bamako and Gao Internet users living in Bamako or Gao.

Mali is having a presidential run-off election as there was no outright winner when elections were held on 29 July 2018.

Mali Internet Shutdown Oracle Internet Intelligence Map
Status of Mali's Internet shutdown as it was on 11 August 2018. Oracle Internet Intelligence Map.

"Internet Sans Frontières has reported and documented the restriction of access to social networks in Mali since July 29, 2018. Thanks to the contribution of the measures of our partner, the Open Network Interference Observatory ( OONI ) we have shown how Mali's main operators have blocked domain names of major social networks.
To circumvent these blockages, many Malian Internet users have stormed the VPNs that allow circumventing these restrictions. A technical way to also restrict the use of VPNs is the restriction of traffic. For example, an operator will degrade a network of type 3G into 2G," read a statement by Internet Without Borders.

Internet shutdowns are an act against freedom of speech

From Uganda to Ethiopia, and Cameroon, Internet shutdowns across Afrika continue to be implanted during elections as a way to prevent citizens from exercising their freedom of speech around election time. Earlier in January 2018, the the Democratic Republic of Congo blocked the Internet ahead of anti-Kabila protests in Kinshasa as the country is set to hold elections later in 2018.

More worrying also, is how willingly and without much protest, telecommunications companies in various Afrikan countries go ahead and implement the Internet access restrictions.

"Access to the Internet and the information available is a fundamental right, especially during an election period. We are very concerned that Mali is becoming familiar with censorship methods that prevent millions of citizens from communicating through social networks," said Internet Sans Frontières.

Cover image credit: Le président de la république malienne, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta au Parlement européen de Strasbourg le 10 décembre 2013. Wikimedia Commons

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