Lagos, Nigeria, February 6th, 2024: 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.
Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a non-profit organisation that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rights in order to improve the livelihoods of under-served young Africans. The organisation has worked in communities across Nigeria since 2007, and across Africa from 2017, building experience, community trust and an organisational culture that positions it as a leading non-governmental organisation in ICT for Development and digital Rights on the continent.
The organisation’s advocacy program is focused on the development of public policy for internet freedom in Africa, with offices in Abuja, Nigeria (covering the Anglophone West Africa region); Yaoundé, Cameroon (Central Africa); Nairobi, Kenya (East Africa), Lusaka, Zambia (Southern Africa), Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and Dakar, Senegal.
PIN has built online platforms that educate and serve as safe spaces for the reporting of digital rights violations. These mediums, in the form of reports, short films, and educational online platforms, include Ayeta, Londa and Ripoti.
Paradigm Initiative is also the convener of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF), a pan-African bilingual Forum that has held annually since 2013.