CITIZENS OFFLINE – the state, telecom companies and internet shutdowns – Switzerland


  • Date: Friday – 15th March 2019
  • Time: 15:45
  • Venue: Uganda Museum – Exhibition Hall
  • Run time: 8 min
  • Directors: Tina Freyburg, Lisa Garbe, Noémie Guignard, Veronique Wavre

This short documentary examines the recurring phenomenon of internet shutdowns in Africa. The film focuses on how governments cut access to social media and other internet services during elections. Between 2014 and 2016, almost a third of Africa’s national elections were accompanied by an internet shutdown. The film highlights the role of telecom companies on whom governments rely in order to disrupt internet access. Zooming into the case of Uganda’s presidential elections in 2016, several people from civil society explain how internet shutdowns are implemented and how they affect the electoral process. At that time, most of the telecom operators in Uganda were owned by foreign companies like Vodafone in the UK, Orange in France, or MTN in South Africa. This raises some serious legal, ethical, as well as human rights concerns given that many of the involved companies come from established democracies.

Biographies of Directors
Together, Tina, Lisa, Noémie, and Veronique have spent some time in Uganda in summer 2018 to conduct research on the telecom sector and shoot different actors and locations for the documentary.

Tina Freyburg is professor for Comparative Politics at the University of St. Gallen in
Switzerland. She has a PhD from ETH Zurich and held positions at the European University
Institute and the University of Warwick prior to joining the University of St. Gallen. For her
dissertation, she spent several months in Morocco and Jordan conducting a survey with
government officials. Her ongoing projects explore the perception and the quality of
democratic governance beyond the nation-state, as well as the promotion of democratic rules
and practices through conditionality and private business.

Lisa Garbe is a PhD candidate and research associate at the School of Economics and Political Science at the University of St. Gallen. Prior to joining the team in St. Gallen, she studied in Germany and France. For a research project on environmental degradation and migration, she spent several months in Northern Ethiopia to conduct interviews with local subsistence farmers.

Noémie Guignard has worked in television for the past 11 years. She started with regional
programs (Canal Alpha, Canton de Neuchatel) before working for Swiss national television
(RTS). She has also produced several documentaries as a freelancer telling different stories
about people’s lives. Apart from her job, for the past 17 years, she has been actively involved
in a NGO that works on health improvement in a village in Togo.

Veronique Wavre works as post-doc at the University of St. Gallen. Before joining the
University of St. Gallen, Veronique finished her PhD at the University of Exeter. Focusing on telecommunication services in the MENA region, she has conducted interviews with different
stakeholders in the sector in Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco.

Citizens Offline

The Amakula International Film Festival is presented by
Bayimba Cultural Foundation in partnership with The DOEN Foundation, Africalia, Kampala Film School and the Uganda Museum.