Senegal: CPJ Welcomes West African Lawsuit Against Senegal Internet Shutdowns

New York — The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the recent lawsuit filed against Senegal at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice challenging Senegal’s internet shutdowns in 2023 and seeking to prevent further shutdowns in the country.

“The case brought against Senegal at the ECOWAS court is an important effort to hold accountable those responsible for shutting down the internet in 2023,” said Angela Quintal, head of CPJ’s Africa program. “Senegal’s internet shutdown in early February 2024, following the postponement of the presidential election, showcased the continued need for action to curb such blunt censorship. The internet is crucial for journalists to work freely and safely, and for the public to access information.”

On Tuesday, Communications Minister Moussa Bocar Thiam said in a statement that mobile internet had been suspended again for “certain time slots” as it had been used to spread “hateful and subversive messages” that had provoked violent demonstrations. A march planned for Tuesday to protest the delay to the poll was postponed after it was banned because it could disrupt traffic, according to news reports.

Media Defence, a human rights organization that provides legal support for journalists, and the Stanford University Law School’s Rule of Law Impact Lab filed a case before the ECOWAS court on January 31 challenging the Senegalese government’s shutdowns of the internet in the country during June, July, and August 2023, according to a press release published Tuesday by those groups. The plaintiffs in the case include Senegal-based human rights group AfricTivistes and local journalists Ayoba Faye and Moussa Ngom. Ngom also works as CPJ’s Francophone Africa Correspondent.

In June, July, and August 2023, the Senegalese government disrupted access to the internet and social media platforms amid protests over the arrest and prosecution of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, on February 3, 2024, announced the postponement of the country’s presidential elections, originally scheduled for February 25. Over the next two days, amid protests and other press freedom violations, authorities blocked access to mobile internet. Mobile internet access was temporarily restored on February 7.

Similar blocks of access to social media platforms were reported in 2021.

Editor’s note: This text has been updated in the third and seventh paragraphs to include the suspension of the internet on February 13.


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