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
For our press release, please click here.
On 22 September 2020, the Supreme Court of Colombia handed down judgment condemning the violent repression of anti-government protests in November 2019, during which security forces attacked, arrested and detained protesters, human rights defenders and journalists reporting on the national demonstrations. The Court ruled on a tutela*, filed by several citizens and civil society organisations, […]
Media Defence is thrilled to announce receipt of a grant award of $150,000 from Craig Newmark Philanthropies (CNP). This grant award will directly support our efforts to help journalists, citizen journalists and media outlets across the world so that we can prevent and reduce the routes that are currently exploited to silence journalism. “Media Defence […]
Welcome to the Digital Rights Advocates blog series, where we hear from lawyers litigating digital rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Digital rights have become indispensable for people around the world to exercise and enjoy their fundamental rights. Independent media is increasingly moving online – from established newspapers and television channels to bloggers and human rights activists […]