Senegal suspends mobile phone internet amid tensions over arrest of opposition leader

Senegal suspends mobile phone internet amid tensions over arrest of opposition leader

Gov't says internet restriction to prevent 'dissemination of hateful and subversive messages on social networks'

By James Tasamba

KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – The Senegalese government announced Monday that it has temporarily suspended access to mobile phone data to prevent the circulation of subversive messages which could undermine public order.

In a statement, the Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Economy said mobile phone internet data is “temporarily suspended on certain periods” because of “the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages relayed on social networks.”

The move came days after the arrest of opposition leader and presidential hopeful Ousmane Sonko, who is due to appear in court on Monday.

Sonko, who was arrested last week, on Sunday announced a hunger strike in custody and called on other political detainees to do the same.

He faces multiple charges including calls for insurrection, criminal association, endangering state security, conspiracy against the authority of the state, criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise, and theft.

In June, the government suspended mobile phone data access for about 48 hours following deadly protests over the sentencing of Sonko.

Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison in June for “corrupting youth,” which jeopardizes his presidential ambition.

His sentencing triggered violent protests in Senegal’s capital Dakar and other towns in which 16 people died and more than 350 others were injured.

Last week, a Netherlands-based cyber security company Surfshark, said six African countries imposed internet limits within their territory during the first half of 2023. These include Ethiopia, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal, Sudan, and Tanzania.

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