Togo elections internet access

#KeepItOn: Togolese authorities and ISPs must safeguard open and secure internet access during upcoming regional and legislative elections

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For the attention of His Excellency Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, President of the Republic of Togo, 

CC: Ms. Victoire Tomegah Dogbé, Prime Minister; Ms. Yawa Djigbodi Tségan, President of the National Assembly; Ms. Cina Lawson, Minister of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation of the Republic; Mr. Calixte Batossie Madjoulba, Minister of Security and Civil Protection; Mr. Yaovi Galley, Director General of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (ARCEP); Mr. Pierre-Antoine Legagneur, Managing Director of the Togocom group; Mr. Jean-Marie Noagbodji, Président Directeur Général de Café Informatique et Télécommunication; Mr. Younes El Bedraoui, Managing Director of  Etisalat (Moov Africa); Mr. Armand Sato, Directeur Général de Groupe Vivendi Africa (GVA); and Mr. Michel Bagnah, Président du Conseil d’Administration, TEOLIS. 

During important national events, people need open, free, and secure internet access. During next week’s legislative and regional elections, Togo must #KeepItOn.

We, the undersigned organizations and members of the #KeepItOn coalition — a global network of over 300 organizations from 105 countries working to end internet shutdowns — appeal to you, President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, to publicly pledge your support for free, open, and secure internet access before, during, and after the legislative and regional elections of April 29, 2024.

As people in Togo prepare to vote, your government must adopt, implement, and enforce measures to ensure everyone can access information, express themselves, and freely associate or assemble, whether online or offline.

In a democratic society, the internet and social media platforms help improve participatory governance, advance democratic inclusion and electoral transparency, and enable people to exercise their fundamental rights — all principles enshrined in the Togolese Constitution. Online platforms facilitate public discourse about electoral processes and political candidates, and enable voters to hold governments accountable for their actions. Internet access also facilitates the essential work of journalists, human rights defenders, and election observers who monitor, document, and report on electoral processes.

Shutting down the internet is bad for people — and for business 

Internet shutdowns and violence often go hand in hand. Shutting down the internet during conflicts, protests or public health emergencies restricts the availability of vital, timely, and potentially life-saving information, as well as access to emergency services. This can exacerbate existing tensions, instigate or cover up violence and human rights violations, and spread disinformation. Internet shutdowns also affect people’s livelihoods and entire economies, costing billions of dollars for countries, businesses, and public organizations that rely on the digital economy. It should be noted that a daily shutdown of the internet in Togo could cost nearly 352 million CFA francs.

Shutdowns contravene national and international laws 

Imposing internet shutdowns violates fundamental human rights guaranteed by national, regional, and international frameworks, including the Togolese Constitution (Articles 21, 25, 26, and 27), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Togo on May 24, 1984. 

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, as the official interpreter of the ICCPR, highlighted in its General Comment No. 37 that “States parties shall not, for example, block or impede Internet connectivity in relation to peaceful assemblies.” Additionally, the UN Secretary-General and other experts have asserted that “widespread internet shutdowns and generic blocking and filtering of services are considered by UN human rights mechanisms to be a violation of international human rights law.” 

Telcos must respect human rights and provide access to remedy 

Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, businesses are responsible for preventing or mitigating potential harm to human rights that they may cause or contribute to, and providing remedies for any damage that may occur. Internet service providers (ISPs) operating in Togo — including TogoCom, Café Informatique et Télécommunication, Etisalat (Moov Africa) Togo, Vivendi Africa Group (CanalBox), TEOLIS, and other relevant local ISPs — must guarantee access to high-quality, open, and secure internet, as well as digital communication tools.

Internet shutdowns should never become the norm, whether in Togo or elsewhere. We encourage businesses in Togo to integrate the UN Principles and OECD Guidelines when responding to calls for censorship and network disruption, in any market where they operate.

Togo’s history of internet shutdowns 

Internet access was suspended twice in September 2017, following widespread protests that began in August 2017, demanding a return to the 1992 Constitution and a limit on the number of presidential mandates. Togolese authorities once again disrupted internet access nationwide during the 2020 presidential elections. These interruptions, justified by the government to maintain public order and prevent the spread of false information, were criticized nationally and internationally as violations of freedom of expression and tactics of political repression.

Following the 2017 shutdown, journalist Houefa Akpedje Kouassi and seven civil society organizations, including Amnesty International Togo, Access Now, and the Media Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IM2DH), filed a petition at the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Court of Justice (ECOWAS Court) objecting to the shutdown in December 2018,. 

On June 25, 2020, the ECOWAS Court ruled that the September 2017 internet disruptions  were contrary to the law and constituted an attack on freedom of expression. The Court demanded that the Togolese government adopt adequate measures, including the establishment of legislation and policies respectful of human rights, to prevent such actions being repeated. It also ordered that 2,000,000 CFA francs (approximately USD 3,583) in damages be awarded to the plaintiffs.

Our recommendations 

We call on the Togolese government to: 

  • Ensure that the internet, social media platforms, and other digital communication channels remain open, accessible, and secure throughout Togo, before, during, and after the elections, as well as during any related civic movements;
  • Refrain from cutting, slowing or blocking access to the internet, or imposing any future unlawful restrictions on internet access and telecommunications; and
  • Take adequate measures, including the establishment of rights-respecting legislation and policies that align and comply with Togo’s international obligations in matters of human rights.

We call on telecommunications providers to: 

  • Preserve evidence and disclose demands from Togo’s government pressuring you to disrupt internet access, or to conceal their demands;
  • Publicly disclose details of any internet or online service disruptions, including when they occurred, their status throughout the shutdown, and when they come back online;
  • Consult and coordinate with civil society and peer companies to push back against government censorship demands, as well as issuing regular transparency reports to safeguard open and secure internet access and to deter future shutdown orders.

Please let us know how the #KeepItOn coalition can support you in upholding a free, open, secure, inclusive, and accessible internet for all people in Togo.

Yours sincerely, 


  • Access Now
  • Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
  • Africa Media and Information Technology Information Technology Initiative (AfriMITI)
  • African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX)
  • AfricTivistes
  • Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
  • Digital Rights Kashmir
  • Human Rights Journalists Network Nigeria
  • International Press Institute
  • Internet Society Togo Chapter
  • KICTANet
  • Kijiji Yeetu
  • Life campaign to abolish the death sentence in Kurdistan
  • Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)
  • Miaan Group
  • Office of Civil Freedoms
  • ONG Women Be Free
  • OONI (Open Observatory of Network Interference)
  • Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)
  • OpenNet Africa
  • Organization of the Justice Campaign
  • Paradigm Initiative (PIN)
  • Zaina Foundation