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14 Feb 2017

Access Now & over 20 other Cameroonian & intl. NGOs

Open letter to telecommunications companies in Cameroon on the internet shutdown

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Dear MTN Cameroon CEO Philisiwe Sibiya, NextTel CEO Nguyen Duc Quang, and Orange Cameroon CEO Elisabeth Medou Badang, We write to urgently request your support in restoring internet access in the South West and North West regions of Cameroon. The internet shutdown in Cameroon’s anglophone regions has been continuing for a month and has significantly interfered with citizens’ daily lives. By blocking access to information and services, the disruption thwarts the exercise of human rights, including the freedoms of expression and association, and slows economic development...We estimate the shutdown has already cost more than US$1.39 million and grows daily...Research shows that internet shutdowns and violence go hand in hand. [2] Shutdowns disrupt the free flow of information and create a cover of darkness that allows repression to occur without scrutiny. In Cameroon, the internet shutdown coincides with the arrest of judges, lawyers, journalists, and citizens, who are taken to military court and charged with terrorism for voicing calls for more federalism...A growing body of jurisprudence declares shutdowns to violate international law...Businesses, too, have the responsibility to respect human rights, and mitigate or remedy harms they cause or contribute to. Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights...business enterprises “should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.”...We recommend that you: Publicly denounce the shutdown and the harm it has caused to your customers and your company’s economic and reputational interests...Jointly push back against the government demand...in order to restore internet access.