IGF 2018 WS #367
Litigating Internet Shutdowns

Organizer 1: Sophie Pollak, Media Legal Defence Initiative
Organizer 2: Padraig Hughes, Media Legal Defence Initiative
Organizer 3: Michael Moss, Media Legal Defence Initiative
Organizer 4: Lucy Freeman, Media Legal Defence Intiiative

Speaker 1: Iya Wase Mokwe, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Asad Baig, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Nicholas Opiyo, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 4: Adeboye Adegoke, Civil Society, African Group

Online Moderator

Panel - 60 Min


The speakers invited comprise a diverse group of lawyers and civil society actors with direct involvement in challenging internet shutdowns using a combination of legal strategy and civil society advocacy. Each of the following speakers are provisionally confirmed.

Adeboye Adegoke is Programme Manager of the Magoyi (advocacy) programme of Paradigm Initiative, a West African digital rights and ICT policy organisation.

Asad Baig is the Executive Director and Founder of Media Matters for Democracy, a policy and research initiative with involvement in advocacy and litigation against internet shutdowns and network disruption in Pakistan.

Emmanuel Aleambong is a Cameroonian barrister who is leading three separate court actions challenging the internet shutdown in English speaking regions of Cameroon.

Lucy Freeman is the Chief Executive Officer of the Media Legal Defence Initiative, an NGO that undertakes strategic litigation and provides legal help to journalists, bloggers and independent media across the world.

Nicholas Opiyo is the Executive Director of Chapter Four, a Ugandan human rights and civil liberties organisation challenging internet shutdowns.


The provisionally confirmed list of speakers achieves regional diversity, comprising citizens of Cameroon, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Uganda. The onsite moderator and co-organiser is a woman and citizen of the United Kingdom. The online moderator is also a women and citizen of New Zealand. The two additional co-organisers are Irish and South African.

This panel discussion will address the proliferation of instances where states have blocked or partially restricted access to the internet, and civil society strategies to challenge internet shutdowns using litigation before domestic and regional courts.

Drawing on a diverse range of legal and civil society actors with knowledge of and involvement in recent and on-going litigation concerning internet shutdowns, the panel will address matters relevant to combating internet shutdowns. These include a) discussion on the current state of internet rights jurisprudence and the extent to which it has proved an effective tool for using the courts to challenge internet shutdowns, b) specific case studies from lawyers involved in litigating against internet shutdowns in Cameroon, Uganda, and Pakistan, c) the role and efficacy of civil society advocacy against internet shutdowns, and d) opportunities to advance the right to internet access in the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance. Emphasis will be placed on encouraging engagement from workshop attendees both onsite and online.

Session structure (subject to minor revision):
- Welcome, opening remarks and introduction to speakers (5 minutes)
- Moderated discussion with onsite moderator directing questions to panellists (30 minutes)
- Workshop open to the floor (onsite and online) for further discussion and questions (20 minutes)
- Closing remarks from panellists and moderator (5 minutes)

The onsite moderator will direct the discussion by posing questions to panellists during the the first section of the session. Once each panellist has had an opportunity to respond, the onsite moderator will open the session to onsite and online participants who will be given an opportunity to engage the forum through questions or statements. At prearranged intervals, the onsite moderator will defer to the online moderator who will convey questions posed on social media channels or by email.

The recent and significant increase in state-initiated internet shutdowns is a widely recognised phenomenon. Past IGF workshops have discussed these developments extensively. Shutdowns have been engaged in the context of broader challenges to freedom of expression online (IGF 2017 WS #33) and in terms of economic loss to the states involved (IGF 2017 WS #110). The implications of shutdowns as measured by Internet Governance Principles has been assessed (IGF 2017 WS #178), as has the broader implications of shutdowns for social and economic rights, including expression, information, assembly as well as free and fair elections, healthcare, and education (IGF 2017 WS #231).

One year after the conclusion of these discussions, the proposed workshop aims to catalyse a shift in conversation towards strategies available to challenge internet shutdowns. Specifically, it will evaluate and reflect upon the effectiveness of legal tools and remedies used in recent cases challenging shutdowns in East Africa, West Africa, and Pakistan with a view to extrapolating universally relevant lessons.

Online Participation

Online participants will able to submit questions through the Media Legal Defence Initiative's (MLDI) facebook page, twitter account, and the live stream that it plans to set up for this panel discussion. Comments, questions and other forms of engagement will be solicited from online participants and sent via social media or email. Comments and questions will then be posed to the panel by the online moderator at regular, prearranged intervals.