For the past two weeks, the Burkinabe government has been cutting the internet in the country. In a press release issued on 22 November 2021, the Ministry of Communication and Parliamentary Relations tried to justify their act by citing obligations of national defence and public security as provided for by national laws. Thus, mobile internet was suspended for 96 hours throughout the country. Still without access to the fixed internet, the Burkinabe government repeated the suspension of mobile internet for 96 hours on 24 November 2021, again citing the same provisions of the law.
This suspension comes in the midst of demonstrations against the presence of the French army in cities such as Ouagadougou, Bobo Dioulasso and Kaya. Indeed, on 19 November 2021, a group of protesters reportedly blocked a French military convoy passing through the town of Kaya.
Internet blackouts of any kind violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR). They are a serious attack on freedom of expression and democracy. They also aim to restrict freedom of expression, access to information and the right to peaceful assembly, the right to conduct economic activities and other rights guaranteed by national, regional and international institutions.
In addition, the Constitution of Burkina Faso states that all human rights must be respected while the country is a party to the main regional and universal human rights instruments. Although Burkina Faso law and international human rights law provide for the possibility of limiting or overriding some rights, these provisions are subject to a number of strictly defined conditions.
Internet blackouts during elections or demonstrations are a recurrent phenomenon in many countries in Africa. These Internet blackouts disrupt the free flow of information, economic activities that depend heavily on the Internet and prevent people from understanding the real stakes in their countries.
As a result, the population cannot be properly informed not only about the management of this particular situation linked to the demonstrations against the presence of the French army but also about possible cases of arrest.
Worse, the press release from the Ministry of Communication and Parliamentary Relations does not explain how the suspension of only mobile internet and not fixed internet access meets the national defence and public security requirements.
AfricTivistes strongly condemns the stance of Burkinabe authorities and urges that they shed light on the current situation. AfricTivistes also demands that all internet access restrictions be lifted to allow citizens to freely exercise their rights. We believe that Internet blackouts or suspensions should not be used to prevent citizens from exercising the above-mentioned rights.
Today, in 2021, the Internet is a key factor in the exercise and realisation of many human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression and access to information.
AfricTivistes is very concerned about this state of affairs insofar as internet blackouts hinder freedom of expression and the right to access information.