(Adds industry executive comment)
KINSHASA Dec 15 Authorities in Democratic
Republic of Congo have asked telecoms companies to block social
media networks from Monday, apparently to thwart protests
against plans by President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond
the end of his mandate.
Providers including Vodacom, Orange and
Airtel did not immediately comment on whether they
would comply, but one industry executive said all companies had
signed an agreement to respect national security injunctions.
The country's top court has extended Kabila's tenure beyond
the end of his two-term limit in the wake of a deal between the
government and some opposition leaders to delay a vote in
November to choose a successor until April 2018.
The government blocked social media networks and the
Internet during protests in January 2015, justifying the measure
as necessary to prevent rumours that could fuel violence. Human
rights groups criticized the decision.
Kabila took power in 2001 and a campaign by the opposition
to force him to step down has led to years of sporadic
demonstrations and arrests. More than 50 died in protests in
September and a similar number died in January 2015.
The request to block social media was made in a letter by
the Regulatory Authority of the Post and Telecommunications of
Congo (ARPTC), a copy of which was seen by Reuters. It listed
Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube and LinkedIn
as services that should be blocked temporarily.
The government spokesman and telecommunications minister
could not immediately be reached for comment.
In November, police in Kinshasa fired tear gas to disperse
opposition supporters seeking to defy a ban on public protests
and rally against Kabila, and the signals of two radio
broadcasters were disabled.
Opposition leaders called new protests for this month.
(Reporting By Aaron Ross; Additional reporting by Amedee
Mwarabu Kiboko; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Janet