Senegal Shuts Down TV Stations, Internet Disrupted Amid Protests

Senegal faced internet disruptions and authorities suspended two television stations as protests in the West African nation escalated following the arrest of its main opposition leader.

Metrics show that Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and some Telegram servers were restricted on Orange/Sonatel as of early morning Friday, U.K.-based NetBlocks, which tracks Internet disruptions globally, said in a statement. Some service had been restored by 7.30 a.m. GMT, it said.

A spokesman for Sonatel, the country’s biggest operator by subscriber, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Senegal is entering its third day of nationwide demonstrations sparked by the detention of Ousmane Sonko, one of the government’s loudest critics, for disturbing public order.

Authorities announced the charges after protests broke out while he was heading to court to answer a separate rape case. Sonko was accused of rape last month by a beauty salon employee and summoned to be arraigned in court after his parliamentary immunity was lifted last week.

Broadcasters Warned

The country’s National Audiovisual Regulatory Council suspended two television stations Thursday for 72 hours over their coverage of the protests, having warned broadcasters in a March 3 statement against airing content that could “threaten national stability or social cohesion.”

At least one person was killed at a protest where authorities shot live ammunition in the southern town of Bignona Thursday, Amnesty International said in a statement Friday, calling on authorities to investigate.

Sonko, 46, came third in the West African nation’s 2019 presidential election with 16% of the votes, after Former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck, who’s since joined the government. President Macky Sall, 59, who garnered 58% of the vote, will end his second and last constitutional term in office in 2024.

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