On 8 May, the Constitutional Council of Cameroon will begin hearing a case that challenges the government’s decision to shut the Internet down in the South West and North West of the country. The Internet was shut down on 18 January following protests against the arrest of civil society leaders resisting government efforts to impose the Francophone legal and education systems in these predominantly Anglophone regions.
The case that has been brought highlights that open and accessible internet communications are essential to ensuring the right to freedom of expression. Disruption of online services, whether through website blocking or internet shutdowns, amounts to a serious violation of that fundamental right. The government of Cameroon is obliged under domestic and international legal obligations to protect freedom of expression, including ensuring that it remains accessible and that people are able to use it freely and without interference.
On 20 April, hours after the constitutional challenge was filed by Veritas Law, with the assistance of Media Defence, at the Constitutional Council, the Internet was turned back on following an order by the President of Cameroon. The blackout lasted 93 days. Throughout the shutdown, the lives of the people living in the region were severely affected. In economic terms, the shutdown has been estimated by human rights organisations to have cost Cameroon around $1.4 million. The cost in social, cultural, health and educational terms has also been high. Even though the Internet has now been restored there is no guarantee the government will not shut it down again. The constitutional challenge was brought to compel the government to restore the Internet, and so that the Constitutional Council could prevent the government from shutting the internet down in the future.
Journalist Mamunur Rashid Nomani, editor of the local online news portal Barishal Khobor, has been charged with violating Bangladesh’s Digital Security Act (DSA), following an accusation claiming that he secretly filmed the mayor of Barisal and his family. Nomani rejects this, alleging instead that he and two of his acquaintances – Kamrul Mridha, working for […]
As part of Media Defence’s project Empowering Women in Digital Rights Advocacy, we are building a strong legal defence network in sub-Saharan Africa. To achieve this goal, we are providing financial assistance to organisations to establish legal aid units or media defence centres. We are excited to announce that, as part of this project, we are extending […]
This year marks Media Defence’s 15th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, we will be taking a look at the ways in which freedom of expression has been threatened around the world, and how we have sought to protect it. The internet has become an essential part of modern life. It has transformed the way we […]