Senegal: Freedom of Expression under Threat

The government of Senegal has denied citizens their right to freely express themselves by suspending the use of the TikTok application in the country until ‘further notice’.

Development Diaries reports that the country made the move due to the dissemination of ‘hateful and subversive’ messages following protests against the imprisonment of opposition figure Ousmane Sonko.

It is understood that the government also blocked access to the entire internet on mobile devices for five days, possibly longer.

‘It has been noted that the TikTok application is the social network preferred by ill-intentioned people to disseminate hateful and subversive messages threatening the stability of the country’, Minister of Communication and the Digital Economy, Moussa Thiam, said in a statement.

The government accused Sonko of calling for insurrection.

But what does the suspicion of TikTok or the Internet mean for human rights in the West African country?

According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), an internet shutdown or blocking of specific apps violates human rights when they fail to meet specific rights criteria.

Article Eight of Senegal’s 2001 constitution guarantees citizens’ freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement.

Also, with regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), under Articles 19, 21 and 22, shutdowns violate the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as freedom of association

Therefore, restriction on the Internet is an attack on citizens’ freedom of information and expression.

Development Diaries calls on the government of Senegal to reverse the shutdown and also implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We also call on the country to develop a measure that counters misinformation through the engagement of citizens with superior arguments using the same internet platforms instead of denying citizens their constitutionally guaranteed right to freely express themselves.

Photo source: John Wessels/AFP


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