President Barrow earlier today at National Assembly

The government of The Gambia shut down the internet on the eve of the 2016 presidential elections. But as the nation prepares for the next vote on December 4, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition have a clear message for authorities: uphold democracy and keep the nation connected.

“The Gambia is on the #KeepItOn coalition’s radar,” said Marianne Díaz Hernández, #KeepItOn Fellowat Access Now. “We will not sit back and allow authorities to shut down the internet and plunge the nation into digital darkness during the 2021 presidential elections.”

Although the current  administration has not deliberately disrupted the internet, there have been frequent network disruptions attributed to undersea cable cuts that affected access approximately four times in 2021 alone. 

“The previous government shut down the internet in The Gambia, but we’re looking to the current government to set a higher standard,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “By safeguarding internet connectivity to all before, during, and after the December 4 vote, it is an opportunity to prove to the nation, and the neighbours, that internet shutdowns have no place in democracy.”

Through an open letter to President Adama Barrow and the government, the coalition is asking authorities to:

  • Ensure full internet access nationwide, and refrain from arbitrarily blocking access to social media platforms, and websites of media outlets;
  • Publicly assure the people of The Gambia that the internet and all other digital communication platforms, will remain open, accessible, inclusive, and secure;
  • Order all internet service providers in The Gambia to provide everyone with high-quality, secure, inclusive, and unrestricted internet access; and
  • Order all internet service providers to inform internet users of any potential disruptions, and to take all reasonable steps to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact the quality of service they receive.

Alarmingly, a growing number of countries have been shutting down the internet throughout elections and other important events. See who voted in 2021, and which governments disrupted the internet.

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Mr. Sainey M.K. Marenah is a Prominent Gambian journalist, founding editor The Alkamba Times and formerly head of communications at the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and Communications and PR Consultant for The Gambia Pilot Program, under Gamworks. Mr. Marenah served as the Social media Strategist and Editor at Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is also the Banjul Correspondent for Voice of America Radio. Sainey is a human rights and developmental journalist who has carved a strong niche particularly in new media environments in the Gambian media industry. Mr. Marenah began his career as a junior reporter with the Point Newspaper in the Gambia in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become Chief correspondent before moving to The Standard Newspaper also in Banjul as Editorial Assistant and head of News. He is a household name in the Gambia’s media industry having covered some of the most important stories in the former and current government. These include the high profile treason cases including the Trial of Former military chiefs in Banjul in 2009 to 2012. Following his arrest and imprisonment by the former regime of President, Yahya Jammeh in 2014, Marenah moved to Dakar Senegal where he continues to practice Journalism freelancing for various local and international Media organization’s including the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and ZDF TV in Germany among others. He is the co-Founder of the Banjul Based Media Center for Research and Development; an institution specialized in research and development undertakings. As a journalist and Communication Expert, focused on supporting the Gambia's transitional process, Mr Marenah continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a viable media and communications platform that engages necessary tools and action to increase civic participation and awareness of the needs of transitional governance to strengthen the current move towards democratization. Mr. Marenah has traveled extensively as a professional journalist in both Europe, Africa and United States and attended several local and international media trainings.

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