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    Interferences with Access to the Internet

    Module 3: Access to the Internet

    Some of the ways in which access to the internet is interfered with are through internet shutdowns, the disruption of online networks and social media sites, and the blocking and filtering of content.  Such interferences represent severe restrictions on the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression, as well as the enjoyment of a range of other rights and services (including mobile banking, online trade and the ability to access government services via the internet).

    The act of disrupting or blocking access to internet services and websites amounts to a form of prior restraint.  Prior restraints are State actions that prohibit speech or other forms of expression before they can take place.(1) Due to the profound chilling effect prior restraint can have on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has been interpreted as prohibiting most forms of prior restraint on speech.(2) The American Convention on Human Rights contains a much more explicit prohibition on prior restraints.(3) The justification of any such measure therefore comes with a heavy burden of justification under the three-part test for restrictions on freedom of expression detailed in Module 1.


    1. Council of Europe, ‘Prior Restrains and Freedom Of Expression: The Necessity of Embedding Procedural Safeguards in Domestic System’ (May 2018), (accessible at: Back
    2. See, for example,the travaux préparatoires of the ICCPR as elaborated upon in Marc J. Bossuyt, ‘Guide to the “Travaux Preparatoires” of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’,Martinus Nijhoff (1987) at p 398. Back
    3. Article 13: “1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression.  This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one’s choice.  2.  The exercise of the right provided for in the foregoing paragraph shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law to the extent necessary to ensure: a. respect for the rights or reputations of others; or b. the protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals.” Back