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.
Media Legal Defence Initiative is now trading as Media Defence. Along with our new trading name, we also unveil a new logo and website, which will help us reach more journalists in need. Since our founding in 2008, we have seen the context in which the media operates deteriorate worldwide. With the spread of […]
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 […]
The context in which the media operates is forecast to worsen. Insecurity and populism spread, governments copy restrictive and abusive practices from others, and new threats such as online harassment emerge. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this downward spiral. Attacks on press freedom, including the use of emergency regulations to target those who inform […]