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Free speech and press freedom continue to be under attack in Tanzania.

Is Tanzania Moving Towards Totalitarianism?

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

By ‘Gbenga Sesan

Last Wednesday, January 30, Tanzania moved decisively closer to becoming a one-party state when parliament approved proposed amendments to the Political Parties’ Act that was first passed in 1992. That was the year that the country adopted multi-party democracy, after 31 years of maintaining its one-party status that it nearly started with as an independent nation in 1961 and made official through a 1963 announcement by the then President, Julius Nyerere.

The man whose leadership influenced the Tanganyika African National Union’s landslide win of all but one seats in the 1960 Legislative Council elections, President Julius Nyerere, admitted that the system brought about “slackness and indifference”. Why is Tanzania now undoing, in 2019, a problem it fixed 27 years ago? There was more than one reason why a move to a multi-party system was necessary; not only to keep the competing parties on their toes but also to avoid muting authentic dissent. It was also necessary to modulate the voice of the party which then had great significance.

In a report by the 1991 Presidential Commission set up to ensure a smooth transition to multipartyism, they stated that surveys showed that the multi-party system gave voters a wider choice of politics, parties and candidates than the one-party system. The Nyalali Commission recommended the formation of the office of the Registrar of Parties whose function as suggested was to register political parties. Since the advent of multipartyism in 1992, Tanzania has seen the opening of the political arena which represented every citizen and brought more competition to how the government accounted for its responsibilities. Opposition parties took up their roles as expected in a democracy, bringing diversity and critical scrutiny of government. A vibrant opposition started gaining more ground during the turn of the new century when they exposed the gray areas that the ruling party needed to address.

However, since 2016, there has been an effective, if largely illegal, ban on political parties carrying out public meetings and rallies. Many opposition leaders, including Zitto Kabwe, have been arrested for violating the ban as well as making “anti-government” comments. While this ban has been strongly opposed, social media has been serving as a public space for the discussion of political and urgent matters of concern. At times, issues are taken up directly with political leaders on social media platforms such as Twitter. When online activist Mange Kimambi defied the ban and made a call for protests, several police commissioners and the minister of Home Affairs ensured the protests did not hold.

The government intensified the clampdown on freedom of expression, following the emergence of the 2015 Cybercrime Act that criminalized criticizing government officials online. In May 2018, the Electronics Postal Communications Act came into play with vague regulations and sanctions to further stifle online rights. Not only are provisions of these law enablers of human rights violations, but they have also gone a step further into shrinking civic spaces.

In late 2018, a bill proposing to amend some provisions of the Political Parties’ Act was brought to Parliament. The proposed amendments include giving enormous power and immunity to the political parties’ Registrar, who is an appointee of the ruling parties’ government, to act as a regulator and police all political parties. In these new amendments, the Registrar has the power to deregister, dismiss and request information at any time. While activists and the opposition have put up a fight to speak out against the draconian amendments, the ruling party has maintained an unsurprising silence. The bill also proposes jail time and hefty fines for breach of the law, still giving the Registrar the powers to manage internal affairs of political parties. A coalition of political parties approached the  courts to block the government from bringing the political parties bill to the parliament but the coalition was turned down by the High Court, and was also asked to pay the government for inconvenience!

The government of President Magufuli appears to be in a sworn fight against freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – online and offline – and its stifling of opposition voices clearly contravenes the principles of democracy. As with many African governments, including that of my home country, Nigeria, the government of Tanzania is so afraid of criticism that any such voice is targeted through restrictive legislation. It is now unlawful to openly criticize through traditional media, online or even as members of opposing political parties. Is Tanzania heading towards totalitarianism, away from the democratic principles it has been identified with over the years?

The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has questioned some of the legislative provisions that pose a threat to the country’s political diversity. At a press conference on January 27, 2019, members of the opposition commended the Committee for rejecting provisions such as granting the Registrar, Deputy Registrar and other officers immunity from prosecution. The committee also asked that section 6 of the bill be reworded to correspond with the current Political Parties’ Act and called for the removal of the provision that bars political parties from operating as pressure groups. Unfortunately, when Parliament resumed this week, the bill was passed into law.

This infringes on real democracy. Online and offline activities of political parties, and citizens will be restricted. We have seen the silencing of online voices through the legislation that called for an annual $927 registration fee for bloggers and the victimisation of civil society voices, and while I wonder what the reaction of affected political parties and civil society in Tanzania would be, it is important for us to shed light on the clampdowns on digital – and other forms of – rights in Tanzania.

From Nigeria to Tanzania, and Angola to Zimbabwe, Africa must stop this trend of clampdowns that have created a climate of fear online. The continent needs the Internet as a platform for innovation and economic opportunities, along with its natural role as a civic space, instead of a space where young people – who are the continent’s resource hope – look over their shoulders.

‘Gbenga Sesan is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, the pan-African digital rights and inclusion group.

Paradigm Initiative Celebrates Safer Internet Day

By | Advocacy, Press Release

As the world commemorates the 2019 Safer Internet Day, Paradigm Initiative has urged Nigerians to adopt safer internet practices. The pan-African digital rights and inclusion advocacy organisation made this call at a media parley held Monday, February 4, at its office in Lagos.

 

According to Sodiq Alabi, the organisation’s Communications Officer, “The Safer Internet Day is a day set aside to raise awareness of emerging online issues, and leverage this to help improve the safety of internet users, especially children and youth. Paradigm Initiative has been empowering youth with digital skills in Nigeria for over a decade, and we have always been conscious of the need to train internet users on the responsible use of the tool.”

 

The organisation has embarked on a digital literacy campaign targeted at young people in Abia, Lagos and Kano, the three states where it currently runs training centres dedicated to information and communication technology skills acquisition among underserved youth.

 

The digital literacy campaign includes classes on digital security for youth, media outreach and roadshows. The campaign is aimed at encouraging internet users in the country to make positive use of the Internet.

 

According to Tosin Abolaji, Paradigm Initiative Digital Inclusion Program Manager, “This is a crucial time to embark on this campaign as Nigeria heads to the polls in a matter of days. Young people are especially impressionable. We want them to recognize that issues of false news, hate speech and cyber harassment are phenomena that can negatively affect peace and security, but also the integrity of an election.  We believe internet users education is one of the ways to combat these phenomena.”

 

“Our message to youth is to be more discerning in how they consume content on social media and other platforms. That something is online does not make it true. We encourage all users to acquire fact-checking skills so they don’t fall prey to misinformation campaigns and they don’t themselves unwittingly spread misinformation,” Abolaji added.

La société civile s’inquiète des perturbations persistantes de Internet au Tchad

By | ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

La société civile s’inquiète des perturbations persistantes de Internet au Tchad

République du Tchad,
Gouvernement de la République du Tchad,

Nous, Organisations signataires, sommes profondément préoccupées par les multiples perturbations des services Internet au Tchad.

En effet, le 25 janvier 2018, les autorités tchadiennes ont arrêté Internet avant les manifestations prévues par des groupes de la société civile et des syndicats du pays. Depuis mars 2018, les communications électroniques ont été fortement perturbées, ce qui a eu des conséquences sur la vie sociale des Tchadiens. Les interruptions des médias sociaux telles que WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube et Skype ont été régulières et visent à entraver les communications entre les personnes et à limiter la liberté d’expression. En outre, en cas d’interruption de l’Internet, les journalistes et les utilisateurs des médias ne peuvent pas communiquer avec les sources et recueillir des informations sans les outils de communication numérique.

Les signataires de cette déclaration condamnent fermement le blocage continu, volontaire ou involontaire d’Internet au Tchad; rappelle au gouvernement tchadien que de tels actes violent les dispositions pertinentes de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme(DUDH), du Pacte International relatif aux Droits Civils et Politiques (PIDCP), du Pacte International relatif aux Droits Économiques, Sociaux et Culturels (PIDESC), de la Charte des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (Charte africaine), de la Déclaration des Principes sur la Liberté d’Expression en Afrique et d’autres lois dont le gouvernement tchadien est signataire et partie. Les fermetures d’Internet entraînent également des pertes économiques pour l’économie locale, perturbant les entreprises et d’autres activités commerciales. Selon NetBlocks, une plate-forme qui évalue l’impact économique des fermetures d’Internet, le coût d’une journée de fermeture d’Internet au Tchad est estimé à 694 589 dollars US. C’est donc un meilleur intérêt pour les Tchadiens et le gouvernement Tchadiens de garder Internet ouvert, afin d’éviter une hémorragie de sa propre économie et de protéger les libertés civiles.

Les signataires de cette déclaration demandent au gouvernement tchadien de :

i) rétablir immédiatement tous les réseaux de communication sur l’ensemble du territoire national, tout en modernisant l’infrastructure de télécommunication pour un service Internet à faible coût ;

(ii) respecter les droits numériques des utilisateurs d’Internet dans le pays ;

(iii) reconnaître la résolution des Nations Unies sur la Promotion, la Protection et la Jouissance des Droits de l’Homme sur Internet A / HRC / 32 / L.20 ;

(iv) s’engager à respecter la résolution 362 (LIX) 2016 de la Commission africaine sur le “droit à la liberté d’expression et d’information sur Internet en Afrique » ;

(v) respecter le contenu et l’esprit de la Déclaration africaine des droits de l’Internet et des libertés ;

(vi) respecter les principes de la gouvernance de l’Internet et du contrat pour le Web ;

(vii) renforcer la promotion et faciliter l’accès illimité à Internet pour assurer le développement économique du pays ;

(viii) réduire les prix exorbitants des communications électroniques ;

(ix) respecter les normes internationales sur les droits humains en ligne et hors ligne.

Les signataires demandent enfin au gouvernement tchadien de mettre fin à toutes les violations des droits numériques dans le pays, de continuer à rendre Internet accessible de manière continue et de ne pas porter atteinte aux droits des citoyens tout en réparant les dommages causés aux utilisateurs d’Internet.

 

Les signataires

Paradigm Initiative

The NetBlocks Group

AccessNow

Internet Sans Frontières

CIPESA

OpenNetAfrica

Rudi International (DRC)

PEN America

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Sassoufit Collective

PACT (Projet pour une Alternance Crédible au Tchad)

League of African Bloggers and Cyber-activists for Democracy – AFRICTIVISTES

Open Net Korea

INTIC4DEV

The World Wide Web Foundation

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI)  

AfroLeadership

Rwanda Youth Clubs for Peace Organization

Senegalese Association of ICT Users (ASUTIC)

AFROTRIBUNE (Togo)

 

 

Lagos, 18 janvier 2019

Paradigm Initiative Condemns Internet Shutdown in Zimbabwe

By | Uncategorized

As an organisation defending the respect of digital rights, Paradigm Initiative strongly condemns the network disruption and internet shutdown experienced in Zimbabwe which begun on Monday 14 January 2019, as a response to the planned march against rising fuel prices. On Tuesday, reports confirmed that some websites and social media platforms; WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, among others, were blocked. Reports also confirm that a total internet shutdown is in full effect and expected to last 3 days.

Internet shutdowns are a direct threat on citizen’s freedom of expression, right to information and association, they pose an even greater threat on people’s ability to communicate and access emergency services during times of distress.

In addition, internet shutdowns stifles people’s ability to conduct business and this will have adverse effects on the already ailing economy. A cost calculator developed by Netblocks, estimates that blocking Twitter and WhatsApp alone costs the country US$ 571, 262 (ZWL 184, 149, 122) per day and could result in an overall loss of US$ 17 227 262 in three days. This is rather unfortunate following the pronouncement by H.E. Emmerson Mnangagwa that ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’. The internet is an enabler of development must be leveraged for economic advancement.

According to Kuda Hove, MISA Zimbabwe Legal and ICT Policy Programmes Officer, the shutdown is affecting people’s capacity to transact and access basic needs as they depend on mobile and e-banking services. “Beyond limiting free expression and access to information, the shutdown is affecting services dependent on the internet such as e-banking and e-payment because we have a cash shortage”, He said.

Paradigm Initiative joins other civil society organisations in urging the Zimbabwean Government to respect every individual’s freedom of expression and access to information by restoring the service.

In light of other recent internet shutdowns experienced this month in the region, we further urge other African Governments to refrain from perpetuating this unfortunate trend to crackdown on citizen’s freedom of speech, especially during times of civil unrest. Governments are entrusted with safeguarding citizen’s wellbeing and as such must be committed to promoting peace, security, dialogue and citizen participation in a bid to develop our great continent.

For more information about this statement, please contact: Bulanda T. Nkhowani <bulanda.nkhowani@paradigmhq.org>

Sudan, Congo DRC and Gabon: Digital Rights violations take no holidays

By | Uncategorized

By Babatunde Okunoye and Adeboye Adegoke

The 2018 Christmas season was one of the most interesting in recent years. Several amusing events contributed to making the Christmas period one of fun and light-heartedness. One is that many in the world were made aware for the first time that every Christmas Eve, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks the flight of Santa Claus as he delivers gifts to children around the world. The humour of a top-level military command of a superpower tracking Santa’s flight around the world only made Christmas more enjoyable. Two, the 2018 Christmas season also coincided with some mouth-watering contests in English football’s Premier League. For instance, fans of Manchester United were particularly keen to watch the club’s continued progress in the fixture against Huddersfield. The match ended 3 – 1 in favour of Manchester United.       

So while the world enjoyed the Christmas festivities, serious developments were brewing in digital rights. In Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo DRC), the government implemented Internet disruptions in contexts which both had clear political undertones. In Sudan, following rising food prices and fuel shortages, protests erupted in Khartoum and around the country, prompting the government to cut internet services. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Internet services were disrupted following the elections of December 30 2018. And on January 7, the Gabon government shutdown the Internet amid reports of a coup in the central African country. The surrounding context in the case of the shutdown in Gabon is very interesting: the Bongo family rules Gabon as a private clan. An oil-rich country, Gabon has the second highest crude oil export per capita in Africa. The father of the overthrown President, Omar Bongo had ruled the country for 42 years and his son Ali Bongo had been in power since the demise of the father in 2009 so it’s not difficult to understand why that government would typically pull the plug in the face of a threat to its reign.  

Earlier in 2018, there had been Internet disruptions in Ethiopia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo, besides other digital rights violations such as the deep data breach disclosures the year exposed, such as the arrest of bloggers. As a case in point, a Nigerian blogger Daniel Elombah, who publishes elombah.com, was arrested around 4:30 a.m. at his home on New Year’s Day on January 1, 2018, on the allegation of cybercrime for publishing an article deemed a strong criticism of the Nigerian police chief on his blog. The year 2018 ranked among the most challenging years for digital rights activists, and all over the world, we seemed up to the task. From interventions such as strategic litigation, advocacy, research and communications, the impact of digital rights organizations was felt around the world. So as the holidays beckoned, any of our colleagues understandably looked forward to times of rest and relaxation with loved ones.

Thus the timing of the Sudan, Congo and Gabon incidents brought some lessons for the digital rights community to consider. If anything at all, the incidents demonstrate that we do important work with consequences for the future of people and nations. The incidents also demonstrate that despite the enormous effort the community have put in, a lot of earth still need moving to guarantee digital rights, particularly in regions and countries with little civil society footprint. Perhaps one lesson which emerged particularly from the Sudan and Congo incidents was that the challenge the size of the countries involved posed and the absence of contacts which could be immediately reached for information. As we start a new year, it is now clear that digital rights violations can happen anytime with very short notice, and with real consequences for nations. However, as civil society activists, we must also demonstrate our capacity to rise to every digital rights challenge – even when it occasionally intrudes into what is supposed to be a holiday.

 

Okunoye and Adegoke work at Paradigm Initiative as Research Officer and Digital Rights Program Manager respectively. 

Paradigm Initiative Calls on NIMC to Suspend NIN Enforcement Activities

By | Uncategorized

The digital rights advocacy group, Paradigm Initiative has called for the immediate suspension of the enforcement of National Identification Number (NIN), as announced by the National Identity Management Commission.

The NIMC announced on Tuesday the commencement of the full enforcement of the use of the NIN by Ministries, Departments and Agencies and other bodies requiring the verification of individual’s identity in the country, such as security outfits, banks and other financial institutions. The commission also announced it was empowering other government agencies and private companies to collect citizens’ data on its behalf, a situation Paradigm Initiative finds disturbing.

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, “We have always been concerned about the ability of the Commission to ensure the protection of the data in their possession, in a country that has failed to put in place a data protection law. Full enforcement of NIN at this time could lead to denial of crucial services to millions of citizens who are not comfortable with sharing their data with the commission or its agents for good reasons.”

“While the harmonization of records and data might be a good step in the right direction for better accountability and statistical documentation in Nigeria, we consider the whole process premature at this time. There has to be a strong data protection law before citizens are forced to entrust their data to NIMC or other agencies of government,” Ogundipe added.

Weighing in on the issue, Paradigm Initiative’s Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan said, “Data protection is a core necessity in every society. It is a responsibility of the state and individuals alike to respect the privacy of citizens. Section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees this unequivocally. There is no way that the right to a person’s privacy can truly be respected in the digital age without data protection laws, policies and mechanisms.”

The National Identity Management Commission is saddled with the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria. The Commission ought to take data protection very seriously; including ensuring that before the execution of such a nation-wide database harmonization exercise, there is extant and comprehensive legislation on data protection.

Paradigm Initiative urges the NIMC to cease all activities regarding the mandatory registration and use of the National Identification Number (NIN) pending when the nation enacts a data protection law. We have been following the legislative process of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB. 490) which contains comprehensive and internationally recognized provisions for data protection and we are confident that if the President assents to the Bill, the NIMC would have a sufficient data protection legislation to guide its activities.

Again, Government Shuts Down the Internet in DR Congo

By | Uncategorized


The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) have once again become victims of Internet abuse and messaging shutdown since Monday, December 31, 2018. The digital rights group, Paradigm Initiative condemned this action and called on the Congolese government to desist from infringing on the digital rights of its citizens. This is contained in a statement signed by the organisation’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.

Telecommunications services customers in the country have been informed by the Internet Services Providers in the country by the following message: “Dear Customer, at the request of the government, our Internet services are suspended for an indefinite period.” SMS communications were also interrupted afterwards.  

According to the government, communications and the Internet have been cut to stop the spread of fictitious results and safeguard national security in the aftermath of the presidential and legislative polls in the country.

For opposition candidates and civil society leaders, this new Internet shutdown by the government is unacceptable and contributes to the weakening of the electoral process. For Congolese joint opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu’s spokesperson, “cutting Internet proves that everything is set up to torpedo the process.” This Internet shutdown adds to other interruptions recorded in the country for almost three years.

Indeed, on February 22, 2018, the Congolese government announced in a Statement that Internet services will be cut for a period of three days throughout the country. The action was aimed at stifling a call for protest by activist groups.

On January 21, 2018, when the Catholic church leaders called for peaceful demonstrations against President Joseph Kabila’s 17-year-old rule, a new shutdown of the Internet took place with a duration of about 48 hours.

On December 30, 2017, a letter from the Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and Information addressed to the General Manager of AFRICELL Congo asked him for the total suspension of Internet supplies in the country, as well as SMS communications. This three-day Internet shutdown was still aimed at stifling opposition protests.

DR Congo has more than 83 million inhabitants with an Internet penetration rate of around 15% and presents itself as a country where digital rights are seriously threatened. The financial losses associated with multiple Internet cuts are estimated at several million dollars per day.

In light of all of the above, Paradigm Initiative strongly condemns this government-orchestrated Internet shutdown that may discredit the electoral process and recalls that Internet cuts are a flagrant violation of the digital rights and freedoms of expression guaranteed by texts of law and international standards.

Paradigm Initiative calls on the DR Congo government to respect its international obligations in terms of Internet governance and human rights and to restore the Internet and all communications services as soon as possible in every part of the country.

Activists Arrested in Nigeria over Facebook Posts and Protest

By | Uncategorized

Paradigm Initiative is deeply concerned about the arrest and detention of activist Deji Adeyanju and two other Nigerians by the Nigerian Police. This is according to a statement by the digital rights and inclusion group’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.

Mr Adeyanju was reportedly arrested alongside two other activists namely Daniel Abobama and Boma Williams on Wednesday morning while leading a protest against police bias ahead of 2019 general elections.

It is our position that the tenents of democracy entitle each citizen to free speech, freedom of peaceful assembly and of demonstration. Therefore,  Mr Adeyanju is well entitled to his opinion on the bias of the police towards the incumbent president and is in fact, entitled to lead a peaceful protest in this regard.

We are aware that the Police spokesperson Jimoh Moshood has cited Mr Adeyanju’s Facebook posts and the content of the trio’s protest placards as the ground for their arrest as the Police deemed the content “criminally defamatory, and also capable of incitement and breach of public peace.” We, however, do not agree with this position. Controversial or dissenting opinions do not automatically qualify as hate speech or defamation – and free speech and demonstration are the entitlement of every citizen of a democratic state.

Paradigm Initiative, therefore, calls upon the Nigeria Police to withdraw its charge against the activists and cause release as critical speech and protest do not constitute a crime in a democratic country like Nigeria. Instead of arrest and persecution of critics, the Nigeria Police is advised to counter criticism with their own facts and argument rather than resorting to force and abuse of power.

Nigeria Urged To Prioritize Signing the Digital Rights Bill into Law  

By | Uncategorized

Abuja, Nigeria

The digital rights and inclusion group, Paradigm Initiative has expressed concerns over the delay in transmitting the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB490) to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent, urging the legislative and the executive arms to ensure the bill is signed before the 2019 elections. This is according to a statement signed by the organisation’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.

The landmark Bill was initially passed by the Senate in March 2018 after previously passed by the House of Representatives in December 2017. After an eight-month delay, the National Assembly reworked Clause 4 of the Bill after a concern was raised by the Directorate of Legal Services of the National Assembly. The new version of the Bill was passed by the Senate last Tuesday, November 27.

While speaking on the issue, Digital Rights Program Manager for Paradigm Initiative, Adeboye Adegoke spoke about the delay experienced in transmitting the Bill to the President. “Since the first passage of the Bill, we have been following up with the National Assembly on its onward transmission. We sent a freedom of information requests which were not replied and have since been left to wonder why it is taking so long to transmit the Bill to the President for his assent. Now that the Senate has reworked and re-passed the Bill, we hope that the bill will be immediately transmitted to the President.”

Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative ‘Gbenga Sesan, however, provided some succour while speaking on the issue, “We are in constant communication with key stakeholders in the National Assembly and we have been assured that the Bill will soon be forwarded to President Buhari for assent”

“Given the President’s recent spate of refusal to assent to a number of Bills sent by the National Assembly, it is understood that the National Assembly is doing extra work to ensure that the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is not refused assent for technical reasons. A member of the Senate was recently quoted as saying that President Buhari refused his assent to 15 Bills in a single day, and we do not want to see the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill suffer such fate,” says Sesan

Speaking further on the Bill, Adeboye asserted that the Bill is poised to put Nigeria on the global map as a rights-respecting country. “This week, the Government of Germany, which currently chairs the Freedom Online Coalition, hosted the 7th Annual Freedom Online Conference, a multi-stakeholder event with governments, civil society, the private sector, and others – to share relevant information, develop joint strategies and combine efforts towards their mutual goal of a human rights-based Internet. We equally want to see Nigeria join in on these important questions and this can be done by ensuring the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill becomes law and reference legislation for other countries across the globe.”

 

For more information on this statement, please send a mail to media@paradigmhq.org.

 

Paradigm Initiative Statement on Digital Rights Violations in Burundi

By | Uncategorized

In 2015, at the time of the challenges faced during the elections in Burundi, social networks had been shut down for a period of 10 days. Users bypassed this digital censorship by VPN solutions with far-reaching consequences.

In 2018, the Senate Chairman made a statement at a public meeting that officials in the country are too tied to their smartphones. The Senate Chairman has proposed to the government to tax each WhatsApp message at 500F CFA (1USD). Following this statement, an anonymous audio circulated on the social media in the country to inform citizens that the statement of the Senate Chairman was just to motivate officials in their work. This did nothing to reassure citizens.

On October 12, 2018, during the Open day organized by the Communications Regulatory Agency, the General Manager announced that major projects are being prepared for the ARCT: “the establishment of the new law on electronic communications, the implementation of the project of the establishment of the single network, the implementation of the broadband strategy in Burundi, the waste management of electronic and electrical equipment, the establishment of a CIRT (Cyber Incident Response Team). “

In view of this, and according to the Civil Society leaders in the country, a bill could be also prepared to tax social media in a context where no actor could oppose.

In this context, Paradigm Initiative calls the Burundian government to carry out reforms in strict compliance with its political commitments while respecting human rights online. Paradigm Initiative also invites the authorities of the country to abandon all projects of taxation on social media and avoid violation of digital rights and freedoms of Burundian citizens.

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