Media Defence files application to ECOWAS Court against Guinea following government-ordered internet shutdowns
Media Defence has filed an application to the ECOWAS Court on behalf of four applicants after Guinea cut internet access across the country in March 2020, and again in October 2020. The shutdowns were imposed at critical moments in Guinea’s democracy. In March 2020 millions went to the polls to vote in a constitutional referendum to determine whether President Alpha Conde would be entitled to stand for a third term as president. In October 2020 the presidential election was held.
The constitutional referendum, and the presidential election that followed it, were highly contentious. Protests took place across the country in the lead up to each vote. In response, the government restricted access to the internet. During the March 2020 shutdown social media was inaccessible for four days. In October 2020, the internet was shut down for one week, while Facebook was inaccessible until December 2020.
As a consequence, the applicants – all NGOs who do public interest work – were unable to report on what was happening as voting took place. Citizens who would ordinarily share information via their social media platforms using hashtags such as #Guineevote were unable to do so. Information about how to participate in the vote, about ongoing protests, could not be shared.
Our application argues that, by shutting down the internet on two separate occasions, Guinea breached the applicants’ rights to freedom of expression. It also argues that a complete and indiscriminate shutdown across an entire country has a profound chilling effect and is clearly arbitrary and disproportionate.
Further, our application contends that the interference extends beyond the individual applicants in this case: both shutdowns interfered with the free expression rights of all people in Guinea, as well as those outside of it, including international journalists.
Media Defence is working with Nigerian lawyer Mojirayo Ogunlana Nkanga.
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Thank you to NetBlocks for the accompanying image.
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