Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Facebook and opposition websites blocked in Equatorial Guinea

Michael Malakata | May 17, 2013
Just a week after the Zimbabwean government said that the Internet poses a threat to stability, Equatorial Guinea has blocked access to Facebook and opposition websites in a bid to stop people from coordinating through social media.

Just a week after the Zimbabwean government said that the Internet poses a threat to stability, Equatorial Guinea has blocked access to Facebook and opposition websites in a bid to stop people from coordinating through social media.

The website of the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea has continued to be fully accessible. The country is due to hold parliamentary and municipal elections on May 26.

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Equatorial Guinea's government blocking of access to Facebook and the opposition websites.

The Web is increasingly becoming a conduit for social unrest in Africa, where several governments have been overthrown in the past few years.

The Zimbabwean government said last week that the Internet was increasingly posing a real threat, which must be addressed as broadband uptake expands in the region. Zimbabwean Minister of State Security Sydney Sekeramayi said that expanded Internet access means more threats to stability. He said, "there is no point of making grand plans if there is a threat."

Access to Facebook was deactivated throughout Equatorial Guinea at the request of the president's office, according to a report from Agence France Presse. The move followed a demonstration against President Teodoro Obiang Ngwema, held by students and government opponents. Ngwema has been president of Guinea for 34 years.

Internet cafes in the country have reported a steep fall in turnover in the past two days as a result of the blocking of access to online information.

"The speed at which internet freedom is being restricted in Africa clearly shows how leaders are scared of the Internet, especially social media networks. But the internet is here to stay and is reshaping people's thinking," said Edith Mwale, telecom analyst at African Center for ICT Development.

Malawi has legislation in the works that calls for regulation and control of online media including social media networks. The bill would require that editors of online publications make known their names, domiciles and telephone numbers in addition to other information.

The bill further introduces the concept of government-appointed cyber-inspectors who would have the powers to, among other duties, monitor and inspect any website or activity on an information system in the public domain and report any unlawful activity to the regulatory authority.

In Zambia, the Zambian government has also ordered the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), the country's telecom sector regulator, to close at least some online media outlets in the country, claiming they are promoting hate speech.

Meanwhile, tension is high in Nigeria, following a $40 million contract awarded to Elbit Systems, an Israeli firm, by the Nigerian government to monitor the country's 47 million Internet users. The contract will allow the Nigerian government spy on citizens' computers and Internet communications for intelligence gathering for national security.

 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.