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Democracy’s lifeline: Senegal must uphold internet access this election

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On March 24, 2024, the people of Senegal will head to the polls to vote in the country’s presidential election — and accessible internet is fundamental. Through an open letter, Access Now and 49 human rights organizations from across the globe are calling on the government of Senegal to ensure unfettered access to the internet and digital platforms throughout the upcoming election.

Internet access is democracy’s lifeline. Disrupting information flow during elections interferes with the public’s ability to make informed decisions. Maintaining uninterrupted connectivity is essential to conducting free, fair, and transparent elections. President Macky Sall must protect freedom of expression and access to information throughout the election process. Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now

Red flags about the possibility of an internet shutdown during Senegal’s presidential election are waved against a backdrop of government interference in communication channels. In February 2024, authorities took drastic measures by blocking access to mobile internet connection twice, in response to protests, claiming it was necessary to curb the dissemination of hateful and subversive content online.

While acknowledging the gravity of incitement to violence and the spread of misinformation, Senegalese authorities must stop infringing on human rights through internet shutdowns under the guise of protecting national security. Restrictions to freedom of expression must adhere to human rights standards; blanket internet shutdowns are a disproportionate response to these risks. Jaimee Kokonya, Africa Campaigner at Access Now

Ahead of, during, and beyond the upcoming election, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition urge authorities in Senegal to: 

  • Publicly assure the people of Senegal that the internet, including social media and other digital communication platforms, will remain open, accessible, inclusive, and secure across Senegal;
  • Refrain from ordering the disruption of telecommunications services, social media platforms, or other digital communication platforms;
  • Ensure that telecommunications and internet service providers (ISPs) implement all necessary measures to provide high-quality, secure, unrestricted, and uninterrupted internet access throughout the election period and thereafter, in line with their quality of service and license conditions; and
  • Ensure that telecommunication and ISPs inform the people of Senegal of any potential disruptions, and take all reasonable steps to remedy any identified disruptions likely to impact their quality of service.