Access to WhatsApp and Facebook began to be extremely restricted on 28 March, after the government organized a week-long forum on a proposed overhaul of Chad’s political and administrative institutions that was boycotted by the opposition.
The forum approved the proposed creation of a Fourth Republic with increased powers for Idriss Déby, who has been president since 1990 and who would, under the new system, be able to continue ruling until 2033. A bill to this effect was approved by the cabinet on 10 April and is now to examined by the national assembly.
The Internet cuts could also be a reaction to the tension within the ruling ethnic group that has found expression on social networks.
Government spokesperson Madeleine Alingué declined to comment when reached by RSF. Internet operators have not issued any official statement about the disruption either.
“Whenever there is political or social tension in Chad, the Internet is disrupted or it is disconnected altogether,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “Chad is emerging as one of sub-Saharan Africa’s worst online censors. The Chadian authorities must restore full access to the Internet.”
The United Nations recognized Internet access as a fundamental right in 2016. After President Déby’s controversial reelection the same year, the Internet was disconnected for several weeks and social networks were disconnected for eight months. The Internet was disconnected again for 24 hours on 25 January, when the authorities banned an anti-austerity protest.
Chad is ranked 121st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.