The incidents of freedom of expression rights violations in West Africa more than tripled in the first quarter (January-March) of 2017.
Over the three-month period, a total of 47 violations were recorded versus 14 violations for the last quarter (October-December) of 2016. The violations recorded in the quarter under review range from arrests and detentions to physical attacks, online violations, shutdown of media houses, censorship, seizure and destruction of property and killings. The 47 violations occurred in 10 out of the 16 countries in West Africa.
These findings are contained in the latest edition of the West Africa Freedom of Expression Monitor, a quarterly report by the MFWA which analyses and highlights freedom of expression developments in the sub-region.
Apart from recording a relatively high number of violations, January-March 2017 was also one of the bloodiest since 2014. A total of nine people, seven of whom were expressing their displeasure about specific issues through demonstrations, were killed by state security agents in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Togo.
The nine deaths have exposed the increasing use of excessive force by security agents in dispersing demonstrators. In all the three incidents in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Togo which resulted in the nine deaths, security agents used tear gas and live bullets to disperse protesters.
Security agents were generally the main perpetrators of the violations cited. Specifically, they accounted for 37 (79 %) of) the 47 violations.