Too many African presidents decide to cut off the internet, for security reasons, indicates a report by Tournons La Page which explains the stakes of such a phenomenon.
Ironically, the international movement Tournons La Page (TLP) published, a few days before Senegal decided to cut off its internet, an "inventory of internet cuts in Africa since 2014". With a shocking title: "In Africa, repression discreetly". The fact that the Senegalese power presses the off button of the internet and social networks was particularly shocking. But Senegal is far from being the champion of the internet shutdown.
Chad, followed by Cameroon and the DRC, are the three countries that cut the internet the most voluntarily.
For TLP, this report “aims to document cases of Internet shutdowns or restrictions since 2014 in the 14 African countries where TLP is present (Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Malawi, Mali , Niger, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Togo, editor's note), and underline the link between Internet shutdowns and attacks on democracy". According to the movement, which is based on international jurisdictions, “many Internet cuts operated by governments” constitute “violations of international law”.
Cuts during the elections
The movement details the economic consequences of internet shutdowns, but also in terms of human rights. TLP to recall that "a third of all national elections between 2015 and 2018 were accompanied by an internet outage ". Actions condemned by continental authorities: in June 2020, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the Togolese State for having cut off the internet twice in September 2017. Other states have also already been condemned, says TLP.
But the continental movement wants above all to explain, with its report, that African heads of state, by cutting off access to the internet under the guise of security, are wrong: "Apart from their illegality, internet shutdowns do not solve the problem often put forward security because they do not prevent illegal activity and do not prosecute the culprits; they simply put a curtain in front of the content”. However, tempers TLP, some information can be blocked thanks to the cuts, but this considerably reduces "citizens' confidence in the Internet and its transparency". Above all, internet shutdowns “promote the development of more obscure underground services”. Those uncontrollable.
THINGS TO DO
TLP asks every African leader to "be transparent about the digital actions of the government in order to restore trust with the population", to "identify the best practices for solving problems without resorting to shutting down the internet" or even to “involve civil society in the drafting of digital laws for the protection of citizens”. The movement also urges governments to "measure the cost of a cut and its impact on the population and the country's infrastructure".
Finally, and this is a rather astonishing proposal, TLP asks operators to "use all legal means at their disposal to prevent the implementation of a shutdown that has been requested of them and, if this shutdown must nevertheless take place , prevent or mitigate as far as possible the negative effects that this measure would have on human rights”. In Senegal, operators cooperated following the government's request.