Paris April 21, 2017 – Internet Without Borders welcomes with relief the news on the restoration of Internet connectivity in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon, ordered by the President of the Republic, Paul Biya, on April 20, 2017.
Since January 17, 2017, 20 percent of the population of this country bordering Nigeria and Chad were cut from Internet Access, due to a government request, arguing risks for national security and public order. The Internet shutdown coincided with a massive crackdown on demonstrations against perceived marginalisation of these regions, populated by an english-speaking minority.
“While today is a time to celebrate the end of the longest Internet shutdown ever recorded on the African continent, and the victory of an International mobilization through the #BringbackourInternet hashtag, we regret that it had to take 94 days of violation of Fundamental freedoms – including expression, communication, opinion, and press – U.S. $4.5 million of estimated economic losses, for the Cameroonian government to put an end to an unnecessary and disproportionate measure”, said Julie Owono, Executive Director of Internet Without Borders, which is mobilized against Internet shutdowns.
“This victory is a testament to the persistence, resilience, and strength of the people and organizations fighting to stop internet shutdowns in Cameroon and around the world,” added Deji Olukotun, who leads Access Now’s “Keep It On” campaign to fight internet shutdowns.
Internet Without Borders remains vigilant: in his statement announcing the restoration of Internet connectivity in the Noth West and South West, Minister of Communication and spokesman of the Government, Mr Issa Tchiroma Bakary, warns that “the Government of the Republic reserves the right to prevent the Internet from being used again in order to incite hatred and discord between Cameroonians or to create disturbances to the public order”. In these times of political discussions and debates preceding the upcoming 2018 electoral period in Cameroon, Internet Without Borders calls on the Cameroonian Government to refrain from using Internet access as a tool to muzzle the free expression of citizens, and the free flow of information.
In addition, important points remain pending: Millions of citizens bore during 94 days the burden of various prejudices caused by the Internet Shutdown, which Internet Without Borders, with the help of the network of its partners in Cameroon, are documenting. The responsibility of those prejudices will have to be sought. The economic losses caused by the shutdown weighed heavily on the private sector, including start-ups of Buéa, the Silicon Mountain, and Telecommunications companies. The latter owe their customers and citizens of Cameroon transparency on their role in the shutdown, what lessons they have learnt and what steps they will take to avoid another shutdown in the future.
The number of Internet shutdowns worldwide skyrocketed between 2015 and 2016, jumping from 15 to 56 documented instances. Africa was particularly affected in 2016: Governments of Chad, Gabon, Gambia, Mali, the Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo interrupted access to all or part of their Internet. The common thread between these shutdowns is a tensed political context, on a continent where calls for Democracy are expressed by a growing number of citizens. The electoral calendar on the continent for the next two years gives reasons to fear other voluntary interruptions of Internet Access. Internet Without Borders and its partners are more than ever mobilized to avoid Internet shutdowns to become the new normal. Internet Access is a public good, superior to political contingencies.
Press inquiries: Julie Owono, Executive Director Internet Without Borders – email@example.comTags: #BringbackourInternet, #KeepItOn, Africa, Cameroon, Democracy, freedom of expression, Human Rights, Internet, Internet Freedoms, Internet Shutdowns