Home Internet Digital rights watchdogs warn against internet shutdowns in Togo ahead of elections

Digital rights watchdogs warn against internet shutdowns in Togo ahead of elections

Digital rights organizations are keeping a close eye on internet access in the West African nation of Togo as the country conducts national elections next week. 

More than two dozen of them called on Togo’s government to ensure unhindered access after multiple instances in recent years in which it implemented shutdowns for political reasons. 

President Faure Gnassingbe, who has been in office since 2005, is seeking to extend his family’s rule over the country into a seventh decade.

Togo’s authorities have restricted internet access multiple times under Gnassingbe’s rule. For example, they did so to quell pro-democracy protests in 2017 and during presidential elections in 2020.

“Authorities in Togo must set a new standard and commit to keeping people online before, during, and after the elections,” said Felicia Anthonio, an expert at digital rights non-profit Access Now.

“When authorities cut off access to essential information during elections, they not only impede people’s ability to participate, they also put fairness, credibility, and transparency at risk.”

Access Now and other organizations wrote a public appeal to Togo’s government demanding that local authorities and internet service providers operating in the country ensure that “the internet, social media platforms, and other digital communication channels remain open throughout the election period.”

“Shutting down the internet is bad for people — and for business,” they wrote.

Internet shutdowns have been stubbornly common across the African continent. In February, the government of Senegal cut internet access to its citizens ahead of the elections less than a year after similar shutdowns in the country during election-related protests.

Chad also suffered internet connectivity and telecommunication disruptions following a deadly attack on the country’s internal security agency in February.

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