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Deep concern over internet disruptions in Senegal

Digital rights advocacy group Paradigm Initiative has expressed deep concern over what it described as “disturbances of the internet and social networks” in Senegal.

According to a statement released by the organisation, the West African country recorded disruptions to the internet and social networks on Friday March 5, 2020 as evidenced in a report by NetBlocks.org.

Paradigm Initiative also cited alerts from internet users that revealed disruptions on social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and some Telegram servers.

It added that prior to these disturbances, “clashes and other demonstrations shook several cities in the country after the arrest of the political leader and opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko; came third in the last presidential election in 2019.”

The organisation stated: “Disturbances of the internet and social networks are a violation of digital user rights, and a violation of certain Internet rights according to the Senegal constitution Article 8, which guarantees its "citizens fundamental individual freedoms including freedom of opinion, expression, the press, association, assembly, travel, and demonstration". “

“As a reminder, Senegal had recorded similar disturbances of internet servers a few days before the presidential election of February 24, 2019,” the statement continued.

The organisation said it was deeply concerned over disturbances of internet networks and said these were aimed at suppressing demonstrations and the expression of online freedom of opinion in Senegal.

“Paradigm Initiative urges and requests the Senegalese government on its responsibilities and calls for respect for international human rights obligations, and to make a lasting contribution to actions to protect digital rights in the country, in accordance with the resolution of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) adopted in 2016 on the right to freedom of information and expression for the internet in Africa, ACHPR / Res.362 (LIX),” the organisation added.

In early January 2020, ITWeb Africa reported that according to the Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns in 2019 report, published by Internet research firm Top10VPN, globally, more than 18 000 hours of Internet shutdowns around the world cost more than US$8-billion in the same year.

In Africa, Algeria, Chad, DRC, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe were among the worst offenders in terms of the amount of time the internet was disrupted.

Commenting on the report, digital advocacy group, Access Now, said: “An Internet shutdown is an intentional disruption of Internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information.”

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