The government of Mauritania has blocked Internet access throughout the country in what the authorities say is a measure to prevent malpractices during final year school examinations.
From June 10 to 13, 2019, the internet and access to social media platforms were blocked from 08:00 to 18:00 hours, the period for the Baccalaureat examinations.
It is the second time in less than a month that the government has disrupted the internet during national school examinations. The first wave of shutdowns occurred during nationwide examinations for entry into high school which was held from May 27 to 28, 2019 as well as the BEPC, equivalent to high school diploma examinations, held from 29 to 31 May, 2019.
Similar measures were taken during the 2018 editions of the various examinations. Although the measure is very unpopular and roundly condemned by internet and social networks users as inappropriate and damaging to the economy, the authorities insist that the measures were necessary to prevent malpractices.
“We attach great importance to this national diploma that opens the way to higher education for a bachelor’s degree. This is why we are reinforcing the measures of monitoring of the tests,” said Eslamou Ould Sidi El Mokhtar, Minister of National Education.
Internet shutdowns hamper daily socio-economic activities of the population and deny them their rights to freedom of expression online. The MFWA is therefore deeply concerned about the abuse of people’s right to receive and share information through internet disruptions.
We urge the authorities to find more practical and innovative means of checking examination fraud rather than resorting to internet disruptions which punish innocent citizens. If this violation is anything to go by, then there is a high risk of internet shutdown during Mauritania’s presidential elections in late June 2019. We therefore urge the government of Mauritania to commit itself to keeping the internet on during the June 22, 2019 polls.