ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS BILL
Amend Article 27 which threatens access to WhatsApp, Viber, YouTube, etc.
The Electronic Communications Bill adopted by the Government of Senegal on 06 June 2018 and currently under-review in National Assembly threatens Net Neutrality and access to online applications.
The last paragraph of Article 27 of the Code states: “The regulator may authorize or impose any traffic management measures it deems necessary to preserve competition and ensure fair treatment of similar services“.
This provision which allows traffic management for competitive and financial reasons, violates the basic principle of Net Neutrality and gives the regulator the power to slow down, filter and block access to WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger, Skype and other online applications to protect the financial interests of MNOs and FAIs. This is likely to cause further discrimination by allowing the creation of two-speed Internet, one for the rich and another for the poor in a country where the digital divide is already wide.
If this bill on the Electronic Communications Code is passed by the National Assembly, without amendment of Article 27, the ARTP and operators will now decide what Senegalese should see and do on the internet. Freedom of expression, free access to information, freedom of choice for users and pluralism of the media, as well as competitiveness and innovation will no longer be a reality in Senegal.
Article 27 of the code is also a threat to the growth of the digital economy and Senegal’s growing e-entrepreneurs. The internet presents the main source of livelihoods of thousands of young Senegalese, who run digital start-ups, produce web-videos, TV series on YouTube, and uses other online media and online networks to develop their businesses. Article 27 is not only a threat to freedoms, but also an economic threat to the main source of employment for Senegalese.
However, Senegal has ratified all the relevant international and regional human rights instruments and treaties that guarantee those rights that Article 27 intends to call into question. Freedom of expression and the right of access to information is one of the key pillars of a democratic society. The limitation that article 27 imposes on Net neutrality is a violation of human rights.
Most modern and progressive countries in the world understand the economic and social values of an open internet. In Brazil for example, Net neutrality is enshrined in their constitution, making it a fundamental human right for all citizens. The government of Senegal, albeit historically recognized for its progressive policies, follows the suit of repressive governments in Uganda and Egypt by attempting to limit access to the internet.
Article 27 of the draft telecommunications bill is a threat to freedom of expression, to economic innovation and to the development of the ICT sector in Senegal. We, National, Regional and International Civil Society Organizations, respectfully request the honourable deputies, representatives of the Senegalese people to ensure the respect of freedom of expression and information of Senegalese, the protection and the promotion of Digital Economy by amending Article 27 of the Electronic Communications Bill.
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