On June 25th 2020, the ECOWAS Court handed down an important decision for freedom of expression, digital rights, and press freedom, finding that Togo, by shutting down the Internet in 2017, violated the rights of the plaintiffs – seven Togolese NGOs and a journalist. The Court awarded damages to the plaintiffs, and ordered Togo to put in place a legal framework protecting freedom of expression that is consistent with international human rights law standards. The Court also ordered Togo not to shut the Internet down again.
Media Defence and Amnesty International represented the plaintiffs, who challenged the decision of the Togolese government to shut down the Internet for days at a time on two occasions in 2017. The shutdowns took place while protestors were calling for constitutional reforms. As well as shutting down the Internet, the state authorities responded using unnecessary and excessive force against the protests with the security forces firing live ammunition and using tear gas against protesters and bystanders. The plaintiffs set out in detail the severe and multi-varied impact the shutdown had on them including that they were unable to report on the protests in order to let people know what was happening. Internet shutdowns have become an increasingly popular method of suppressing dissent and containing protests, and this judgment represents an important step in pushing back against this phenomenon.
“This judgment should act as a warning to other governments considering using Internet shutdowns as a tool to silence dissent. Importantly, the Court has ruled not only that the shutdown was illegal, but that it should not be repeated”
Pádraig Hughes, Legal Director, Media Defence
For additional information, please contact Pádraig Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Media Defence is pleased to announce that the Dow Jones Foundation has decided to renew their support for our legal work with a further $10,000 grant. Thanks to the Dow Jones Foundation and its continued support, we can be more equipped to respond and provide legal assistance in support of press freedom around the world. […]
European Court Finds Turkey Violated Cumhuriyet Journalists’ Rights to Liberty and Security, Freedom of Expression, Detained in the Crackdown Following July 2016 Coup
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has held that Turkey violated the Article 5(1)(c) and 10 rights of ten journalists working at the prominent Turkish newspaper, Cumhuriyet. The journalists were arrested and detained in the government crackdown following the July 2016 attempted coup. Media Defence intervened as a third party in the case, along […]
Welcome to the latest instalment of our ‘Partners’ blog series. In this series, we interview some of our partners from around the world about their crucial and fascinating work in freedom of expression. This time, our Legal and Grants Officer Emmanuel Vargas spoke to lawyer Hanifi Baris of TOHAV (Toplum ve Hukuk Araştırmaları Vakfı/Foundation for […]