Paradigm Initiative (PIN) has denounced, in the strongest terms possible, the order for Internet shutdown by the Senegalese authorities shortly after President Macky Sall postponed the nation’s presidential election indefinitely.
The continuous weaponisation of Internet shutdowns and blockage has been on the rise lately. This will not be the first time Senegal is shutting down the Internet for its people, as is now characteristic of African governments during protests or when elections draw near.
Similarly, on Monday, 31 July 2023, Senegal restricted access to Internet services when the opposition leader Ousmane Sonki was formally charged to court for “fomenting insurrection” by the authorities. These shutdowns go against Article Eight of Senegal’s 2001 Constitution which guarantees citizens’ freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement.
Article 9 (1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights also provides access to information as the right to receive information and is echoed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under Article 19(2).
Furthermore, shutdowns create significant obstacles that damage the free flow of information, which may in turn, erode trust in electoral processes and increase the likelihood of hostilities and violence.
Shutdowns may also lead to the disruption of financial transactions, commerce, industry, labour markets, and the availability of platforms for the delivery of services, and above all, threat to the values of democracy,
As spelt out by Principle 37 of the Declaration of Principles On Freedom Of Expression And Access To Information In Africa, States must facilitate the rights to freedom of expression and access to information online and the means necessary to exercise these rights.
They must also recognise that universal, equitable, affordable, and meaningful access to the Internet is necessary for the realisation of freedom of expression, access to information, and the exercise of other human rights.
The government’s explanation of “hateful” and “subversive” messages on social media was inadequate to warrant such drastic measures, including their legal basis and underlying grounds.
Furthermore, PIN calls on the government of Senegal to adhere to the objective of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance under Article 2(10) to promote the establishment of necessary conditions to foster citizen participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and accountability in the management of public affairs. An open internet will ensure this compliance and the promotion of human rights under Article four of the same.
We urge the government authorities to respect their citizens’ rights and desist from further attempts at future shutdowns.