A senior UN official has called for authorities to restore internet service in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that a general network shutdown is a "clear violation of international law and cannot be justified".

Internet and text services were cut following the recent election in the DRC. A government spokesman has reportedly said the action was taken following the 30th December election to preserve public order after fictitious results began circulating on social media and that they would be restored after preliminary results were announced on 6th January. 

But the country's electoral commission announced on Sunday that the release of the results has been postponed and urged the nation to "remain patient".

David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said on Monday that access to information is "crucial for the credibility of the ongoing electoral process".

“A general network shutdown is in clear violation of international law and cannot be justified by any means,” he said.

The UN said reports had indicated the shutdown was hindering electoral observers and witnesses in relaying information from rural voting centres and was also hampering the UN's work in the country.

“I urge the authorities to restore internet services as a matter of urgency and to ensure the integrity of a fundamental democratic exercise such as this one,” Kaye said.

The country has not had a peaceful transfer of power since it became independent from Belgium in 1960. While relatively peaceful at the December polls, there have already been numerous concerns raised over the conduct of the latest election - including by the Catholic Church - which was held to replace President Joseph Kabila who has ruled the country for almost 18 years. Some 21 candidates ran in the election.

In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law, and called on all states to refrain from and cease such measures.