In particular, this study examines the compliance of the Senegalese legal framework governing the Internet with contrasted international rules on freedom of expression and access to information.
“This study is ARTICLE 19’s contribution to the process of reform of the legal framework relating to freedom of expression on the Internet. It allows the positive aspects to be identified and the points in need of improvement to be highlighted in order to broaden and strengthen the citizens’ ability to make full use of the potential that the Internet now offers,” said Fatou Jagne Senghor, ARTICLE 19’s Regional Director for West Africa.
The study highlights several positive aspects of the Senegalese Internet-related legal framework, namely:
- The recognition of the right to freedom of expression in digital technologies, as expressed in a considerable number of laws and decrees;
- The general absence of any obligation on Internet service providers to monitor the information that they transmit or to identify illegal activities, unless a court order compels them to do so;
- The positive proposals contained in the Press Code Bill, such as discarding the provisions regarding “notice-and-takedown” procedures for website hosting firms and adopting a system requiring a court order.
However, it also finds that several elements are completely incompatible with international rules and are likely to have a serious impact on freedom of expression in Senegal. The Law on Cybercrime is especially worrying, in the sense that it imposes a considerable number of content restrictions, which are formulated in a vague way and potentially have a scope that is too wide ranging. Similarly, the Decree on the Use of Encryption imposes the need to obtain a permit before supplying, importing, exporting and, in some cases, using encryption software. Moreover, while the Press Code Bill includes several positives changes, it nevertheless restricts the definition of “journalist”, thereby threatening to exclude the vast majority of bloggers and lay journalists and to impose excessive punishments on offences of defamation of character, libel, slander and insult.