Gabon imposes internet blackout during elections

Multiple internet providers in Gabon have cut off internet service on the day of the presidential and legislative elections, hindering the free flow of information online and posing a challenge to election transparency.

Hacker's hand with a device for obtaining an access code and hacking access to data

Multiple internet providers in Gabon have implemented an internet blackout on the day of the presidential and legislative elections. This measure is likely to hinder the free flow of information and pose a challenge to election transparency. President Ali Bongo is seeking to extend his family’s 56-year tenure in power, raising concerns about the democratic process in Gabon.

The Gabonese government has justified the internet blackout by stating that it aims to prevent the spread of calls for violence and the distribution of false information. The Minister of Communication, Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou, announced on public television that internet access across the entire territory has been suspended until further notice.

NetBlocks, an independent and non-partisan internet monitor, has confirmed the internet blackout in Gabon and monitors network connectivity during elections using its methodology. The organization strives for a fair and inclusive digital future.

Why does it matter?

This internet shutdown raises concerns about the transparency and fairness of the elections in Gabon. The blackout is anticipated to stifle transparency as the opposition seeks to challenge Bongo’s long-standing dominance. This is not the first time such a blackout has occurred in Gabon, as during the 2019 attempted coup. The outage is not an isolated incident, as similar restrictions have been witnessed in other African countries during elections, limiting free expression and civic engagement. During elections, Zambia, Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Guinea, Burundi, Togo, Mauritania, Benin, Cameroon, and Mali have also experienced internet shutdowns and social media restrictions. These restrictions limit free expression and civic engagement at critical moments.