Liberia’s telecommunications Companies Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange Liberia have apologized to customers for the difficulties experienced during the June 7 “Save the State” protest in Monrovia.
According to internet monitoring platform NetBlocks, social media sites including WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Google’s Gmail service and the website of The Associated Press were among the sites were blocked to suppress the protests.
Confirmed: #Liberia has blocked Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat to suppress #Monrovia protests; network data collected w. @cipesaug provide conclusive evidence of blocking by mobile ISP Orange #KeepItOn #SaveTheState ?https://t.co/wlvTPHjK3Z pic.twitter.com/6PDpwwxOSU
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 7, 2019
It was disappointing moment as citizens struggled to communicate with love ones both in and out of Liberia.
Some citizens, including journalists later began to use virtual private networks (VPN) to bypass the restrictions.
Liberia’s Minister of Information Eugene Nagbe in an interview with international media confirmed that social media platforms were shut down temporarily because of “security concerns.”
“We have restored some of them,” he said. “We are not saying that the protesters were carrying out things detrimental to the nation, but the national security apparatus said there were threats to the country and the services were temporarily disrupted and have been restored.”
The two GSM companies in their message of apology said it was “due to the implementation of a regulatory directive from the Government of Liberia to restrict access to social media services.”
“As a good corporate citizen, we operate with the priority of ensuring the security and safety of our employees and customers, whilst ensuring that we meet all laws, regulatory obligations and directives as issued by the relevant authorities,” the management of Lonestar Cell MTN wrote.
Similar to Lonestar Cell MTN, Orange Liberia wrote, “Dear valued customers, Orange apologizes for difficulties in using some social media platforms on the internet on the 7th of June due to restrictions on services ordered by the Government of Liberia for national security reasons.”
The messages of apology from the two companies have been marked by huge criticisms and bitterness from subscribers.
“To the management of Orange-Liberia, you failed your customers yesterday. You never respected the bond that binds you with them, that is clients-service provider relationship -although the situation was compelled by an external force, the government. Sometimes you earn respect and a place of honor when you act proactively. Where was your proactivity? Instead of writing an apology note, you could have just informed your clients in advance yesterday that you would be restricting your services because the government had demanded that you do so due to security reasons. Who couldn’t have understood your constraint? But you never remembered the bigger constraints that people out there could encounter. And this reflects poorly on you. Please remember to keep us inform in advance next time you plan to restrict your services either due to compulsion or technical failure.” – Adolphus Mawolo
“This is all they are going to say after violations of our basic Human Rights to Broadband and Internet connectivity which enhances freedom of information. Get ready for a protest against your services and to lose customers if…….Sorry for yourselves.”– Sunnie Antonio Marcar Jr.
“Lonestar Cell MTN I wish this was somewhere in Europe or America, by this time you would be paying millions to customers for the damage caused them . But anywhere This too is Liberia. Sweet Land of Liberty.”– Gradia Charlesetta Cooper