No matter how hard I try I don’t manage to open either Facebook or Twitter. It’s not really an uncommon thing that I cannot access these sites from my phone. Especially at home the connection speed is often too slow. Over the past few days I couldn’t access the sites from my computer in the office either. Internet has been horribly slow there too lately, so at first I thought that was the reason. I’d probably still have believed it if I would have had trouble accessing other sites as well, but those work.
A few days ago a very popular local radio host and singer, known as Ras Bath, was arrested. I’ve never listened to any of his talk shows, but apparently he’s a huge fan of the freedom of press, using it to be critical and putting a finger on many a delicate issue, including corruption, the political powers and the army. In the eyes of certain people he must have crossed a line.
Ras Bath seems to have incredible numbers of followers, mainly amongst the Malian youth and he has made good use of social media to connect with them. Following his arrest youngsters flooded the streets of Bamako protesting and asking for his immediate release. At least one of them was killed by gunfire, several others were wounded. Security measures in Bamako were instantly taken to a higher level.
Is the Malian government afraid of a revolution like Burkina Faso has seen in previous years? There definitely seem to be similarities as the Burkina Faso revolution was powered by two popular local rappers, who got impressive crowds flooding the streets across the country. And they too used social media to communicate with their followers.
So, no there was no particular internet connection problem causing the inaccessibility of Facebook and Twitter. Both platforms were shut down on government order.
Even though Ras Bath has been liberated yesterday – awaiting his trial – there is still no access to either of the two social media platforms.
Quite a bummer since I personally use Facebook to keep up to date with the well-being of my friends around the world and to share bits of my life in Mali with them. We also use Facebook and Twitter as a business communication tool. And we agree, social media is an incredibly helpful and powerful tool for sharing information.
Like with many other things you only truly realize the value of things when they are not available. Besides a situation like this clearly shows what happens when a government uses its power: an entire nation can be – temporarily – silenced…