19 juin 2017

Mali : Joint Letter on Keeping The Internet Open and Secure

Par Julie Owono Dans Actualités, Afrique

To His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, President of the Republic of Mali

Copy addressed to: His Excellency Mr. Abdoulaye Idrissa Maïga, Prime Minister

Mr. Harouna Modibo Touré, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communication

Mr. Cheick Sidi Mohamed NIMAGA, President of the Malian Telecommunications Regulatory Authority


Re: Internet shutdown in Mali

Your Excellency,

We are writing to urgently request that you ensure the stability and openness of the internet. We received reports that your government shutdown access to Facebook and Twitter from June 13 to June 14, 2017, and many express fear that it may again be the case soon. On behalf of the Malian civil society, and of the more than 100 organizations from over 50 countries that make up the #KeepitOn Coalition, we implore you to keep the internet on.

Internet shutdowns harm Democracy, human rights and economies

Internet shutdowns, democratic backsliding and violence go hand in hand. [1], [2] Shutdowns disrupt the free flow of information and create a cover of darkness that shields human rights abuses from public scrutiny. Journalists and media workers cannot contact sources, gather information, or file stories without digital communications tools. Justified for various reasons, shutdowns cut off access to vital information, e-commerce, and emergency services, plunging whole communities into fear. The deprive citizens of their fundamental freedom to communicate. Disruptions also destabilize the internet’s power to support small business livelihoods and to drive economic development. A 2016 study by the Brookings Institution, a prominent think tank, revealed that shutdowns drained $2.4 billion from the global economy between 2015 and 2016. [3]

The open Internet has fostered unprecedented creativity, innovation, and access to information and to other kinds of social, economic, cultural, and political opportunities across the globe. The technical means used to block access to information online often dangerously undermine the stability and resiliency of the Internet. Internet shutdowns must never be allowed to become the new normal.

In Mali, extending access to the global internet remains a key driver to bridge digital divides and reach your commitments to achieve the objectives detailed in the “Mali Digital 2020” Plan published by the Government. One of the objectives is the generalisation of access to network and digital services.

Internet shutdowns violate international Law

A growing body of findings and resolutions hold that intentional disruptions to the internet violate international law. In July 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed, by consensus, a resolution on freedom of expression and the internet with unambiguous language on internet shutdowns and other restrictions on freedom of expression online. Resolution A/HRC/RES/32/13:

condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law and calls on all States to refrain from and cease such measures.

The Council sent a clear message that the blocking and throttling of networks, applications, and services that facilitate human rights is unacceptable behavior.

Experts from the United Nations, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Organization of American States (OAS), and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), also issued an historic statement declaring that internet “kill switches” can never be justified under international human rights law, even in times of conflict. [4]

In November 2016, ACHPR adopted a resolution on the right to freedom of information and expression on the internet in Africa, which noted its concern over “the emerging practice of State Parties of interrupting or limiting access to telecommunications services such as the Internet, social media and messaging services, increasingly during elections.” ACHPR/Res. 362(LIX)

The UN Human Rights Committee, the official interpreter of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, emphasizes in its General Comment no. 34 that restrictions on speech online must be strictly necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate purpose. [5] Shutdowns, by contrast, disproportionately impact all users, and unnecessarily restrict access to information and emergency services communications during crucial moments. Shutdowns are neither necessary to, nor effective at, achieving a legitimate aim, as they block the spread of information, contribute to confusion and disorder, and obstruct public safety. Shutdowns are neither necessary to, nor effective at, achieving a legitimate aim, as they often spread confusion and encourage more people to join public demonstrations.

We respectfully request that you use the important positions of your good offices to:

  • Ensure that the internet, including social media, remains on
  • Publicly declare your commitment to keep the internet on, and to notify the public of any disruptions
  • Encourage telecommunications and internet services providers to respect human rights through public disclosures on policies and practices impacting users.

We are happy to assist you in any of these matters.



Access Now



Collectif Sassoufit

Consortium Action Droits de l’Homme

DoniBlog – La Communauté des blogueurs du Mali

iFreedom Uganda

Index on Censorship

Internet Sans Frontières


Mouvement Citoyen Ras Le Bol Congo Brazzaville

Freedom Forum – Nepal

Freepress Unlimited

Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

Paradigm Initiative

Pen America

Plus Jamais Ça

Reporters Sans Frontières

Réseau des Défenseurs de droits de l’homme

The Unwanted Witness





[1] An internet shutdown is defined as an intentional disruption of internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information. See more at <https://accessnow.org/keepiton>.

[2] Anita R. Gohdes, ‘Pulling the Plug: Network Disruptions and Violence in the Syrian Conflict’ (Journal of Peace Research: 31 January 2014) <http://www.anitagohdes.net/uploads/2/7/2/3/27235401/gohdes_synetworkaug14.pdf> accessed 15 June 2017.

[3] Darrell West, (Brookings Institution, October 2016) “Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion last year” https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/intenet-shutdowns-v-3.pdf

[4] Peter Micek, (Access Now, 4 May 2015) ‘Internet kill switches are a violation of human rights law, declare major UN and rights experts’ https://www.accessnow.org/blog/2015/05/04/internet-kill-switches-are-a-violation-of-human-rights-law-declare-major-un

[5] UN Human Rights Committee (UN, July 2011) “General Comment No. 34” http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/GC34.pdf

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  1. […] an open letter to the Presidency of Mali on 19 June 2017, Internet Sans Frontières and 22 Malian and international organizations call on the government to […]


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