The Côte d'Ivoire Telecommunications Agency (ATCI) announced in a directive dated 24 March that it intends to block access to several independent and anti-Gbagbo websites. Reporters Without Borders 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,” says the directive signed by ATCI director-general Sylvanus Kla.
“This list is not exhaustive,” the directive continues. “This decision is adopted in the strict framework of National Defence and Public Security and takes effect from the date it is signed (24 March).”
“The websites targeted by this act of censorship continue to be accessible although six days have elapsed since the ATCI directive,” Reporters Without Borders 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.