Saturday, March 19, 2011

Twitter mobile restored in Cameroon

Last week, in a move that echoed social media censorship in Cameroon, the government ordered MTN - a major mobile phone operator in Cameroon - to suspend Twitter mobile - locally known as Twitter SMS. The suspension of Twitter mobile was widely criticized by Twitter users at home and abroad. One week after the suspension, Twitter mobile has been restored in the sub-Saharan country.

The restoration of the service in Cameroon was announced on 18 March 2011 on Twitter, when the official Twitter page of Twitter Mobile was updated with the following tweet:

"Twitter SMS service on MTN Cameroon is live once again! New users should send START to 8711 to sign up."

In closed totalitarian and highly censored societies, Twitter is instrumental in sending out information. In Egypt for example, during the recent pro-democracy demonstrations, twitter was widely used by protesters to organize and share information and pictures with the rest of the world.

In countries where press censorship is the order of the day, Twitter is a cherished service which gives oppressed people a unique opportunity to freely express themselves and share uncensored information with the rest of the world.

Over the years, the 28-year-old regime of Cameroon has been widely criticized for press censorship and imprisonment of journalists, hence the suspension of twitter mobile was perceived by many as another attempt by the regime to stifle free expression and any possible attempt by the growing number of anti-government activists to organize online.

It is worth mentioning that Twitter SMS was suspended two weeks after government forces brutally quashed peaceful anti-governmnent demonstrations in Cameroon's economic capital. A Cameroonian blogger described the suspension as a government bid to "insulate itself against digital activists."

The restoration of Twitter mobile in Cameroon is welcomed. People have the right to freely express themselves or peacefully organize through any available means - without government interference.

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