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Senegal must make reforms to fully guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and the right to privacy, and cease the arrest and intimidation of journalists and activists.

The briefing material for Senegal has been prepared by and is endorsed by the following organisations:

Senegal’s diverse media landscape helps it attain relatively high scores in international press freedom ranking indices, but some concerns relating to the implementation of the country’s press code remain.

“Indecency” laws and restrictions on “spreading false news” have been weaponised against artists, journalists, activists and individuals making political comments online. These laws must be amended to fully guarantee freedom of expression online and offline.

We call for Senegal to adopt an access to information law in order to support greater accountability and transparency, and to lend more weight to the government’s efforts to crack down meaningfully on corruption. Ongoing efforts to establish data protection legislation are encouraging, but the Senegalese government must ensure that the Commission on Personal Data receives enough resources to fulfil its mandate.

Take legislative measures to protect the press from political and administrative interferences, and uphold freedom of expression online and offline

  • Reform Articles 192 (Closure of a Press Organisation) and 193 (Closure of an Online Press Organisation) of the Press Code

  • Reform Articles 254 (Offence to the Head of State), 255 (False News) and 258 (Defamation) of the Penal Code

Senegal’s Press Code, adopted in June 2017, contains several provisions that undermine freedom of opinion, expression, and information, and promote censorship and self-censorship.

Of utmost concern is the power the Press Code gives to regional authorities to seize equipment, suspend broadcasting, or close a media organisation without prior authorisation by a judge under Articles 192 and Article 193.

Press offences with harsh penalties remain in force and this has promoted a culture of self-censorship among journalists. In 2015, several journalists were arrested on the grounds of “violating defence secrecy” following press reports about a plan to send Senegalese soldiers to Saudi Arabia. This incident was perceived within the media sphere as attempts to intimidate journalists into silence.

Revise Articles 27, 180 and 181 of the draft Electronic Communications Code to ensure judicial oversight over the regulator’s powers, and to promote and protect media pluralism

Senegal’s Electronic Communications Bill, introduced by the government on 6 June 2018, and currently before the National Assembly, contains provisions that threaten expression online.

Article 27 gives the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Posts (ARTP) sweeping powers over the telecoms sector. The bill’s enactment would undermine freedom of speech by empowering authorities to direct internet service providers to block or limit access to online content or services without judicial oversight.

Articles 180 and 181 set out the liability of web hosts and internet service providers for hosting illegal content or abusive comments, incentivising them to pre-emptively remove content to avoid penalties. Such measures lack judicial oversight, and are inconsistent with the principles of necessity and proportionality under international human rights law.

  • Revise Article 27 to provide meaningful judicial oversight over the powers of Senegal’s telecommunications regulatory authority

  • Revise Articles 180-181 to clearly establish judicial oversight over content removal requests made to web hosts and ISPs

Adopt an access to information law in compliance with human rights standards, with the participation of relevant civil society actors in the drafting process

In 2009, members of the Senegalese parliament expressed their eagerness to establish a committee to review a draft Access to Information Law and work towards its adoption.

Doudou Wade, Majority Leader of the National Assembly and President of the Network of Parliamentarians against Corruption, stated: “The national assembly is committed to swiftly adopting an access to information law, which constitutes a great tool to promote and strengthen fundamental human rights.”

In October 2017, Senegalese civil society organisations issued a joint statement with Article 19 calling for the adoption of an access to information law to support transparency and accountability. As yet, no such law has been passed.

Ensure that the Commission on Personal Data is sufficiently resourced to guarantee citizens’ right to data protection and privacy on the internet.

Ensure that the Commission on Personal Data is sufficiently resourced to guarantee citizens’ right to data protection and privacy on the internet

In January 2008, Senegal adopted Law No. 2008-12 of 25, which established an independent authority known as the Commission on Personal Data (CDP). The CDP’s mandate is to ensure that personal data is processed in accordance with the provisions of this law, which provides a legal and institutional framework for the protection of personal data.

Cybercrime is on the increase in Senegal, and citizens are becoming increasingly vulnerable to online fraud and significant breaches of privacy. Several private and public actors continue to collect personal data without any regulatory enforcement by the CDP.

Due to resource limitations, the CDP is not sufficiently fulfilling its mandate. In February 2018, its president made a plea for government assistance to support efforts for sensitisation and compliance monitoring.

  • Adopt a comprehensive strategy to ensure the effective implementation of Law No. 2008-12 on the protection of personal data

  • Ensure that the Commission on Personal Data (CDP) has sufficient financial, logistical, and human resources to fulfil its mandate

Later Event: November 6