The authorities in Mauritania have disrupted social media amidst police assault on opposition protesters following disputed presidential elections in that country.
Mobile telephone connections were blocked around mid-day on June 23, 2019, making it impossible for the populace to make calls or access social media applications on their handsets. As a result, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Viber, YouTube, among other applications, could not be accessed. The disruption followed rising tension in the country after Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, ruling party candidate, declared himself winner of the previous day’s polls.
Neither the government nor the telecom companies has commented on the disruption which is believed to be aimed at preventing opposition mobilisation to contest the election results.
This is the third time in one month that the authorities in Mauritania have violated freedom of expression rights online. The internet was shut from May 27 to 31, 2019, during nation-wide high school entrance tests and high school diploma examinations. The measure, which the government argued was to check examination malpractices, was repeated on June 10-13, 2019, during the Baccalaureat examinations.
The MFWA finds the disruption of communication networks as an act of blatant censorship which violates the public’s right to receive information and express their opinion.
We are equally concerned about the arbitrary arrests and detentions of members and supporters of the opposition by the police, who also stormed the offices of Biram dah Abeid and Kane Hamidou Baba, two of the opposition candidates, and destroyed equipment including computers.
According to media reports, the two other losing candidates, Mohamed Ould Maouloud and Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar, have deplored the action of the police.
“We condemn the attacks on the offices of Kane Hamidou Baba and Biram dah Abeid. We also denounce the fact that there were massive arbitrary and unjustified arrests,” the two were quoted by Radio France Internationale (RFI) as saying.
The MFWA equally condemns the violations that have followed the otherwise peaceful voting in Mauritania. We urge the authorities to release opposition members and supporters illegally arrested by the police. We also call on the government to ensure that there are no further violations, especially during the protest marches planned by the opposition on June 27, 2019.