SEE ALL TEMPLATES

We have moved all templates to this collection page. It includes All Resume and Cover Letter Templates, Business Plan Templates, Invoice Templates and More...

SEE ALL TEMPLATES

We have moved all templates to this collection page. It includes All Resume and Cover Letter Templates, Business Plan Templates, Invoice Templates and More...

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The threat of internet shutdowns on media freedom in Senegal

Must Read

Advertisement

In recent years, many countries, especially in Africa, have witnessed a disturbing trend of governments resorting to internet shutdowns as a means to suppress dissent and control the flow of information, especially during electioneering periods. In Senegal, a country known for its vibrant media landscape and democratic traditions, a recent development of internet shutdowns has raised concerns about the erosion of press freedom, declaration of war on the freedom of expression and ultimate denial of access to information.

If there is anything that has proven to be an important backbone of democracy, it is the freedom of information, and at the core of it is press freedom which serves as a vital tool to not only check government and political officeholders but also ensure transparency and accountability at various strata of the society while creating the avenue for public participation in governance through public discourse of important issues affecting the polity.

Advertisement

In Senegal, a country with a history of a vast media environment and democratic governance, the media performs an important function of holding authorities accountable while keeping citizens abreast of matters of public importance.

Trend of Internet Shutdowns in Senegal

In 2023, the Senegalese government declared a series of shutdowns of the country’s internet following protests against electoral irregularities and corruption in various levels of government.

Again, on Monday, the 5th of February, the President Macky Sall-led Senegalese government temporarily suspended mobile internet, days after the president announced an indefinite postponement of the country’s presidential election earlier scheduled for the 25th of February.

Advertisement

These shutdowns, which lasted for days, disrupted and denied citizens access to social media and messaging platforms, effectively stifling dissent and hindering the ability and rights of journalists to perform their lawful duties.

Impact of internet shutdown on Press Freedom

In an age where information is readily available at the click of a button, Internet shutdowns pose a serious threat to press freedom as it obstructs the ability of journalists to gather, investigate, interrogate and disseminate important news. In Senegal, the shutdowns not only hindered journalists’ access to information but also impeded their ability to communicate with sources and publish stories. This censorship undermines the people’s right to information and hinders the role of journalists in pressing for accountability and transparency.

“It is always a difficult situation whenever the government shuts down mobile networks. You know, as journalists we always have the need for mobile networks to do a lot of things. From having to do some desk research on your story, to communicating with sources, communicating with colleagues and doing other things online but when such restrictions are placed, it makes the job very difficult,” said Hamadou Sy, a journalist in Senegal.

Mr Sy said that the imposition of internet shutdowns makes it difficult for him to publish stories on his online news platform, thereby obstructing his work.

Advertisement

“For someone like me who operates an online news platform, it is impossible to publish stories when there is an internet shutdown. As you know, we need mobile network to be able to get online and publish stories.”

Although internet shutdown has become a global phenomenon as noted in the 2023 world press freedom index, the African continent takes the lead in the globally condemned act, with countries in Africa having experienced over 100 social media shutdowns, partial internet shutdowns or full internet blackouts. Between 2020 and 2021, Africa was reported as the most censored region in the world. During these internet shutdowns, many Africans, including journalists, have little to no access to information online.

Organizations such as Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have condemned internet shutdowns as a violation of human rights and press freedom.

Besides its grave impact on press freedom as well as freedom of information and expression, internet shutdowns also pose grievous economic threats, disrupting businesses, hindering access to essential services, and undermining investor confidence thereby dropping a huge blow on the economy. For instance, for every sixty minutes of internet shutdown in Senegal in 2023, the country was reported to have lost three hundred thousand dollars

“Lack of internet connectivity can have far-reaching and potentially devastating consequences for ordinary citizens, who cannot communicate with loved ones or report the situation to the outside world. This leaves them isolated and vulnerable in a time of crisis,” said Gabrielė Račaitytė-Krasauskė, head of communications at Surfshark, in a statement reported by the international journalists network.

Concerted international intervention as a solution

As internet shutdowns continue to threaten freedom of the press, freedom of information and freedom of expression in Senegal and beyond, there is an urgent need for the international community to take decisive action to condemn such actions in strong terms and hold culpable governments accountable.

This can be achieved through advocacy calls, diplomatic pressure and consequential economic sanctions.

Access to the internet is an essential tool for the realization of many fundamental human rights including the right to free expression and access to information, while also serving as a platform for freedom of the press, public discourse, and democratic participation. The developments of internet shutdowns in Senegal serve as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by censorship and suppression of press freedom.

READ ALSO: ECOWAS council meets, discusses Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso exit, Senegal crisis

As a democratic state, Senegal must uphold its commitment to freedom of expression and the rights of its citizens to information. It is also important that the government sees the press as a partner in developmental democracy and refrains from resorting to internet shutdowns to silence dissent and prevent journalists from performing their lawful duties.

Advertisement

Latest News

Iran claims to have completed attack on Israel

Iran’s UN Mission says the Islamic Republic has “concluded” its retaliatory attack on Israel after it launched dozens of...

More Articles Like This