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Côte d’Ivoire: Gbagbo camp to block access to independent and opposition websites

A woman wearing an outfit with a photo of Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo attends a mass rally on March 26, 2011 in Abidjan in Gbagbo's support, under international pressure to leave power as the country slides towards civil war.

The Côte d’Ivoire Telecommunications Agency (ATCI) announced in a directive dated March 24 that it intends to block access to several independent and anti-Gbagbo websites. Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has obtained a copy of the directive and is distributing it.

“Internet operators and service providers are prohibiting access from within Côte d’Ivoire to the following websites: www.abidjan.net, www.lavoixdugolf.net, www.connectionivoirienne.net, www.primaturecotedivoire.net, www.koaci.com, www.lebanco.net and www.informateur.net,” said the directive signed by ATCI director-general Sylvanus Kla. “This list is not exhaustive,” the directive continued. “This decision is adopted in the strict framework of National Defence and Public Security and takes effect from the date it is signed [March 24].”

“The websites targeted by this act of censorship continue to be accessible although six days have elapsed since the ATCI directive,” RSF secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “Does this entity really intend to censor them or is it a warning or act of intimidation towards those who operate them?

“Either way, the target is clear. They are independent sites or ones with pro-Ouattara propaganda. Equivalent sites offering pro-Gbagbo propaganda are not affected. The ATCI’s director-general, Sylvanus Kla, is one of the leaders of the pro-Gbagbo ruling party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI). The war in Côte d’Ivoire is now invading the new media terrain.”

Côte d’Ivoire’s two political rivals, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, are both on SlateAfrique’s list of the Top 5 most connected leaders in Africa. Both understand the role the Internet can play in their popularity and wage a cyber-war on Facebook, Twitter and other online social networks. Each camp distributes newsletters defending its leader and attacking his rival. Mobile phone texting services were cut a month ago by the ATCI on the orders of Gbagbo’s interior minister.

Date posted: March 31, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 321