In an election that took place under a government-ordered communications blackout, Gambian President Yahyah Jammeh is conceding defeat to his main challenger, Adama Barro, and access to the internet has been restored.
“Gambia should never have shut off the internet in the first place, especially during an election, the most critical moment of a democracy,” said Deji Olukutun, Senior Global Advocacy Manager at Access Now . “But we’re pleased that the government has decided to respect human rights and restore the internet for the people of Gambia. The next administration should go further and commit to keeping the internet on, once and for all.”
Government authorities had shut down the internet in Gambia and cut international phone calls on the eve of the election, only hours after rights groups in the global #KeepItOn coalition urged President Jammeh not to carry out a shutdown. Jammeh, predicting victory, also warned citizens against protesting the election results, even peacefully. Analysis of internet traffic from Akamai showed that the shutdown lasted for about a day and a half. Now, many voters are openly celebrating the results, including sharing the news online.
“This crisis and its epilogue demonstrates the important role the internet has in the democratization of Africa, reminding everyone of the importance of protecting freedom of expression and information online,” said Julie Owono of Internet Sans Frontières, a member of the #KeepItOn coalition.
There is a growing international consensus that shutdowns violate international human rights law and are never justified, even in times of conflict. In June, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution that specifically condemns internet shutdowns.
The #KeepitOn campaign is supported by more than 100 organizations from more than 50 countries around the globe who are pushing back on internet shutdowns at every level, from governments to telcos to tech companies to everyday internet users. The coalition recently launched a petition asking world leaders to commit to ending shutdowns, which Access Now will deliver at the United Nations’ Internet Governance Forum 2016.
Deji Bryce Olukotun
Senior Global Advocacy Manager, Access Now
Head of Africa Desk, Internet Sans Frontières
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