Africa: Switch Off the Lights, We’re Voting | allAfrica.com
Cameroonian journalist Richard Onanena’s recent trip to neighbouring Chad to cover the first round of elections on 10 April was a harrowing experience. Due to the restrictions on communications imposed by the government, he was unable to send messages or reach his colleagues at the BBC Africa service’s headquarters in Dakar. ‘On the morning of the election, I was supposed to send my report live from N’Djamena, but I couldn’t because of the blackout’. What’s more, Onanena says he was unable to reach his contacts in Chad to check what was happening at the various voting stations. ‘We moved blindly from one polling station to another without knowing what to expect,’ he told ISS Today. The shutting down of social media, messaging and mobile phone communications around the elections in Chad came in the wake of similar incidents in the Republic of Congo and Uganda, where governments also severely restricted access to communication networks during the recent elections. Election monitors and civil society organisations are increasingly concerned about this phenomenon, which signals a return to Cold War-era censorship and an attempt by governments to control the flow of information.