Common Statement By AF* on Internet Shutdowns in Africa

2 June 2017 Nairobi, Kenya

The Af* organizations, comprised of AFRINIC, AFTLD, AFNOG, AFREN, Africa CERT, and ISOC Africa, gathered at the 5th African Internet Summit, in Nairobi, Kenya, 21 May – 2 June 2017, issue the following statement:

We are CONCERNED by the increasing number of Internet shutdowns ordered by Governments in Africa. Internet shutdowns are intentional disruptions of Internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location for specified or unspecified periods of time. African territories accounted for many of the 56 Internet shutdowns recorded globally in 2016.

We are OPPOSED to any form of Internet shutdowns, including those that impact social media sites, entire networks, intentional disruption of Internet or mobile application services access, in any context such as elections, demonstrations or social tensions. Shutdowns offer poor solutions to complex problems and have shown to generate collateral damages on society and the economy. Intentional disruptions of access to information were unequivocally condemned[1] by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016.

We would like to DRAW ATTENTION TO the negative effects of Internet shutdowns Not only do they impact the rights of citizens (e.g. expression, association, access to knowledge and education) recognized both in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, they also impact businesses and entrepreneurs. Various studies have highlighted the high costs of Internet shutdowns on country’s GDPs. In a context where economic growth relies increasingly on Internet access, as reaffirmed in the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, shutdowns can generate long-lasting and costly effects on society and on user trust.

We DO NOT THINK that the Anti-shutdown policy proposal put forward by some members of the AFRINIC community will offer a sustainable solution to this issue. While we share the same concerns as theproposals authors and welcome the community dialogue this has generated, we think this proposed policy will likely be ineffective and could create unintended damages

We are CONCERNED that such a proposal would be difficult to implement, and would take AFRINIC beyond its technical mandate and expertise, as highlighted by AFRINIC staff’s assessment of the proposal. We are also concerned that this proposal might antagonize governments in a way that will worsen the situation as a whole. Finally, the proposal might also impact citizen’s ability to access the Internet beyond the government entities targeted by the proposal.

Instead, we are CALLING on African governments to renounce the use of Internet shutdowns as a policy tool, and to engage in meaningful dialogue with stakeholders. We UNDERSTAND that governments have legitimate concerns related to Internet use and that they have obligations related to national security and public order.

In the spirit of the WSIS Tunis Agenda, the Af* are available to WORK with African governments and other stakeholders to find better solutions that do not hurt the fundamental rights of citizens and that protect the Internet’s stability, resilience and openness.