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.
By Lucas Anastácio Mourão, partner at Flora, Matheus & Mangabeira Sociedade de Advogados. The legal solutions devised to combat problems, as they arise with each new period and context, often seem definitive at the time of their conception. Yet as technologies and behaviours evolve over time, so must our legal responses change and adapt. The […]
We’re hiring for a Project Assistant to join our Empowering Women in Digital Rights Advocacy project. The project develops legal communities, in particular women lawyers, to defend, promote and strengthen freedom of expression online. For example, under this project, Media Defence: (i) conducts litigation surgeries for lawyers in sub-Saharan Africa on litigating digital rights cases […]
Lucas Anastácio Mourão, sócio do Flora, Matheus & Mangabeira Sociedade de Advogados. Os problemas apresentados por cada contexto e cada época refletem um dado tipo de solução jurídica que, embora geralmente pareça definitiva no momento de sua concepção, muda e se adapta através do tempo de acordo com as tecnologias disponíveis e também com os […]