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DRC's latest internet blackout condemned

A Congolese man puts on an homemade gas mask during a protest called by the Catholic Church, to push for the President to step down, in Kinshasa, 25 February 2018
A Congolese man puts on an homemade gas mask during a protest called by the Catholic Church, to push for the President to step down, in Kinshasa, 25 February 2018

JOHN WESSELS/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 27 February 2018.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop systematically disconnecting the Internet whenever opposition protest marches are held.

The entire country was deprived of the Internet from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, 25 February 2018, while thousands of people marched through the streets of the capital, Kinshasa, and provincial cities in protest against President Joseph Kabila's refusal to stand down although his term of office has ended.

Called by the Catholic Church and the Lay Coordination Committee, the protests were dispersed violently by the security forces with an estimated toll of two dead, 47 wounded and more than 100 arrests.

"Once again, the authorities have used an opposition protest as grounds for giving the order to block all Internet communications," RSF said. "Preventing information from circulating does not help to limit the violence or conceal the crackdown on the protests. The Congolese people must not be deprived of its fundamental right to be informed."

The authorities already suspended messaging services, social networks and other Internet services during previous opposition marches on 31 December and 21 January. As a result, RSF and 12 other international and Congolese NGOs sent a joint letter to the prime minister and the minister of telecommunications on 23 February urging them not to do it again during Sunday's march.

The DRC is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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