Category

Advocacy

Au Cameroun de Paul Biya, la répression numérique s’accentue et inquiète

By | Advocacy

Le président camerounais Paul Biya n’est pas aussi suivi sur Twitter comme ses homologues Paul Kagamé (1, 44 millions d’abonnés) du Rwanda ou encore Nana Akufo-Addo (951k abonnés) du Ghana. Cependant les publications de plus en plus fréquentes du président camerounais et sa gestion de son compte Twitter suscitent des réactions dans la presse locale et régionale. Le quadragénaire est accusé de supprimer sous ses publications, les commentaires qui lui sont défavorables et de bloquer les activistes ainsi que les personnalités politiques qui critiquent sa gestion du pays.

Depuis plusieurs mois, Paul Biya a décidé de s’adresser à ses compatriotes via les réseaux sociaux ; ses visites officielles, ses messages de voeux…tout se fait via son compte Twitter. Le président Biya a commencé depuis quelques semaines à évoquer toujours sur cette plateforme numérique, l’actualité sociopolitique de son pays. Avec des citations inscrites sur des visuels, il aborde des thèmes comme le pardon, la liberté de manifestation ou encore le dialogue.

Ce sont ces publications qui sont diversement appréciées par une partie des internautes camerounais. Les critiques fusent régulièrement de part et d’autre. Si certains critiquent sa gouvernance économique du Cameroun, beaucoup remettent en cause sa gestion des crises anglophone et postélectorale.

Selon le site d’informations panafricain africardv.com, plusieurs de ces commentaires qui fustigent la gouvernance du président Paul Biya sont systématiquement supprimés. Les auteurs sont bloqués et ne pourront plus suivre le chef de l’État. Du haut de ses 85 ans, l’homme qui dirige le Cameroun depuis 35 ans n’accepte visiblement pas les critiques selon Africardv.

« Le leader du mouvement Stand Up For Cameroon et présidente du Cameroon Peoples Party (CPP), Kah Walla, a annoncé qu’elle avait été bloquée sur le compte Twitter de Paul Biya. De même que le blogueur Serge Mapoko et quelques rares qui ont eu le courage de l’exprimer publiquement”, a publié le journal en ligne.

Les organisations de la société civile sont montées au créneau pour dénoncer ce qu’elles qualifient de restriction de la liberté d’expression en ligne. Depuis Paris, Internet sans Frontière se montre inquiète.

“Nous sommes très inquiets que les personnalités politiques, mais également de la société civile ou même des citoyens lambdas puissent être bloqués par le compte officiel du président du Cameroun. C’est une institution et à ce titre, une institution démocratique doit pouvoir accepter que les citoyens puissent s’adresser à elle y compris des critiques” a confié Julie Owono Directrice de Internet Sans Frontière qui appuie ses propos par l’exemple américain. En effet la Cour suprême américaine avait assimilé à de la censure, le fait pour le président Donald Trump de bloquer ses opposants sur la plateforme Twitter.

Pour le journaliste et lanceur d’alerte camerounais Paul Chouta, « le fait de bloquer les activistes, blogueurs et influenceurs web critiques vis-à-vis du régime sur le compte du président Paul BIYA est une preuve de son caractère dictatorial, car bloquer des gens parce qu’ils ne partagent pas les mêmes points de vue que lui résulte tout simplement du refus de la contraction qui va aux antipodes de la démocratie ».

De son Côté, Patrice Nouma, activiste en exile aux USA relativise. Pour l’ancien officier reconverti en web-activiste, Paul Biya est libre de bloquer qui il veut sur compte Twitter. Il estime qu’une partie des commentaires souvent supprimés par le chef de l’État font plutôt « l’éloge de la sécession, de tentative de coup d’État et de dénigrement ». Néanmoins, Patrice Nouma estime qu’en sa qualité de président de la République, « il [Paul Biya] devrait accepter les critiques ».

Le Cameroun a perdu deux points au dernier classement de Reporters Sans Frontières sur la liberté d’expression. Selon l’ONG, la menace sur la liberté d’expression est permanente au Cameroun.

“Le Cameroun poursuit sa longue marche arrière en matière de liberté de la presse. Champion africain des coupures internet en 2017, le pays a de nouveau connu des perturbations de son réseau à la suite de la réélection de Paul Biya pour un septième mandat en octobre 2018”, précise RSF avant de dénoncer “les détentions arbitraires de journalistes et les poursuites, notamment devant des tribunaux militaires ou des juridictions spéciales”, a publié RSF.

Le site d’information en ligne le plus suivi du pays, CameroonWeb avait d’ailleurs été censurée pendant plusieurs mois avant d’être remise en ligne.

Il faut rappeler que depuis 2016, la crise anglophone menace le pouvoir de Paul Biya. Soutenus par certains activistes de la diaspora, les contestataires revendiquent de plus en plus clairement la sécession du pays. En 2017, l’internet a été coupé dans les régions contestataires du nord-ouest et du sud-ouest pendant plus de trois mois savants d’être rétabli.

Emmanuel Vitus est Google Policy Fellow et Chercheur auprès de Paradigm Initiative.

 

#DRIF19: Delegates Call for Renewed Action to Protect Digital Rights in Africa

By | Advocacy, Press Release

Delegates at the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum have expressed concern at the spate of violation of human rights online on the African continent, calling for renewed action to protect the digital space from rights violations.

The delegates were speaking at the 3-day Forum which held in Lagos, Nigeria, from April 23-25 and welcomed delegates and speakers from across Africa and beyond. The Forum provides a platform for conversations on efforts to ensure human rights online are not violated and that more people in Africa are connected to the internet.

Anriette Esterhuysen, the former executive director of the Association for Progressive Communications, in her submission, argued that the internet has to be protected and remain open as “it is the usually the only means of expression for some minority groups to access information on issues that are not openly discussed.”

Grace Githaiga, the co-convener of KICKTANET said, despite the challenges facing the digital rights space on the continent including internet shutdown, harassment of internet users and online journalists, and lack of data protection laws in many countries, “advocates should celebrate the positive- good laws, initiatives, and partners that allow us to meet and remaining optimistic of a better future.”

This came on the backdrop of conversation on internet censorship that has rocked the continent over the last few years. Africa now leads with the highest number of countries shutting down the internet or restricting service. In Chad, for example, social media has been shut down by the government for over a year now. In 2019 alone, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe and DR Congo have either shut down the internet or restricted access to services.

Speaking on the challenges facing efforts to improve internet penetration, Funke Opeke, the chief executive of MainOne Cable, emphasised the need for government to partner the private sector instead of constituting itself as a stumbling block to expand internet access. She said governments in other climes “create the right incentives and structures to facilitate access to the internet, especially in the rural areas. Dr Ernest Ndukwe, a former chief executive of the Nigerian Communication Commission, also urged civil society and active citizens “to focus more attention on what government can do to ensure people have access.”

The Forum also explored the state of data protection and privacy laws on the continent. Ephraim Kenyanito of Article 19 and Morisola Alaba of Media Rights Agenda, while speaking on the new 5G technology, said there was an urgent need to have data privacy legislation as the technology made its way to the continent, saying the technical capabilities of 5G could allow for greater surveillance capacities for repressive governments.

The tone for the Forum was set by the Opening Panel which was moderated by ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative and featured Hawa Ba, the Head of Senegal Office of Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Segun Mausi, Head of Africa division at Human Rights Watch, and a Emmanuella Darkwah who was representing Ghana’s National Security Advisor.

The Panel explored the centrality of human rights to modern society and the need to dedicate resources and attention to the protection of human rights. Hawa Ba highlighted the crucial role the internet has played in public education and mobilisation in Senegal and said it was important to ensure the internet remained an open and safe platform. Mausi Segun said all internet users have a duty to fight for the protection of digital rights and to make sure their government enables internet access for more citizens.

While according to Ghana’s Emmanuella Darkwah, Ghana was working on “ensuring internet and digital rights are encompassed in future laws” and, to among things, “make internet shutdown impossible in the country.”

Delegates from

 Togo, Chad and Cameroon bemoaned the ease with which their governments shut down the internet and specific internet services. In Chad, a delegate reported, social media platforms have been unavailable for over a year now, making life unnecessarily harder for the people of the country.

In his closing remarks, ‘Gbenga Sesan urged delegates to go back to their countries with a renewed energy to contribute to efforts to keep the internet safe and open to all users, saying “digital rights advocates are in the business of not minding our businesses. We have no choice but to be involved in efforts that help protect the internet, and to resist action that endangers human rights online.”

#DRIF19 is the seventh edition of the Forum which is convened annually to provide an “important platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped, and policy directions forged.” The Forum, organised by Paradigm Initiative and supported by Google, Ford Foundation, and Heinrich Böll Stiftung, welcomed delegates from 38 countries.

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

internet_shutdown_PINigeria

#KeepItOn : vers une élection sans internet au Sénégal?

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Uncategorized

Par Emmanuel Vitus

Le Sénégal est le seul État d’Afrique occidentale, îles exceptées, à ne pas avoir subi de coup d’état depuis son indépendance, en 1960. La transparence et stabilité qui ont toujours marqué les échéances électorales ont contribué à faire du pays un exemple régional. Mais le prochain scrutin présidentiel s’annonce dans un climat tendu caractérisé par la montée en puissance des «Fake News» et des discours de haine en ligne.

Alors que la campagne électorale a débuté depuis une semaine, sur les réseaux sociaux, les campagnes de dénigrements et de désinformations sont au firmament. Pour contrer le phénomène, le gouvernement a annoncé l’adoption de nouvelles dispositions contre la diffusion des «Fake news» et des discours de haine sur internet.

Mais déjà, plusieurs voix s’élèvent aussi bien dans la société civile que du côté de la presse.

Même s’ils reconnaissent de façon unanime l’urgence de mettre un terme à l’hémorragie des «Fake news», les professionnels des médias craignent que la nouvelle loi à adopter ne restreigne l’espace de la liberté d’expression ou ne soit instrumentalisée par les pouvoirs publics pour museler la presse.

Aussi, plusieurs tribunes ont été commises par des journalistes sénégalais pour alerter l’opinion sur les risques de censures et d’extrapolation des accusations de «Fake News» que les pouvoirs publics pourraient porter contre tout Sénégalais dès que leurs intérêts seront menacés.

Peine d’emprisonnement

Du point de vue juridique, c’est l’article 255 du code pénal qui réprime la diffusion des «Fake news» au Sénégal. La disposition punit d’une peine d’emprisonnement de trois (3) ans et d’une amende de 100000 à 1500000 FCFA la «publication, diffusion, divulgation ou reproduction, par quelque moyen que ce soit, de nouvelles fausses, de pièces fabriquées, falsifiées ou mensongèrement attribuées à des tiers (…) lorsque la publication faite ou non de mauvaise foi, aura entraîné la désobéissance aux lois du pays ou porté atteinte au moral de la population, ou jeté le discrédit sur les institutions publiques ou leur fonctionnement».

Selon la loi sénégalaise, en cas de diffusion de «Fake news», le mandat de dépôt est obligatoire (art 139). De même, les auteurs pourraient être frappés d’une interdiction de séjour sur le sol sénégalais durant cinq (05) ans au plus.   

Article 27, l’épée de Damoclès

Bien que le gouvernement ait annoncé à plusieurs reprises ne pas vouloir entraver la liberté des Sénégalais, l’article 27 d’un projet de loi portant «Code des communications électroniques», déjà adopté en conseil des ministres le 6 juin 2018, laisse des doutes sur la sincérité des engagements du pouvoir public à laisser l’internet ouvert lors du prochain scrutin.

Dans un de ses alinéas, il stipule, entre autres, que «l’Autorité de régulation peut autoriser ou imposer toute mesure de gestion du trafic qu’elle juge utile pour, notamment préserver la concurrence dans le secteur des communications électroniques et veiller au traitement équitable de services similaires».

Cette clause selon la société civile, témoigne à suffisance de la volonté des autorités étatiques de livrer les Sénégalais au diktat du régulateur et des opérateurs lors du prochain scrutin.

Perte évaluée à 3 milliards

Si le gouvernement de Macky Sall venait à couper l’internet le 24 février prochain, près de 10 millions d’internautes seront déconnectés du monde sans compter les conséquences sur la vie socio-économique du pays.

Une journée de coupure d’internet au Sénégal coûtera environ 5849015 dollars US soit environ 3370101532 CFA par jour selon les estimations de Netblocks, une plate-forme qui évalue l’impact économique des coupures d’internet à travers le monde. C’est un minimum parce que l’estimation ne comprend pas les paiements mobiles, les transactions du secteur informel et les recettes fiscales.

Une probable coupure constitue un danger pour le développement de l’économie numérique pour la jeunesse de ce pays en particulier. Cette jeunesse ambitieuse, en quête de revenus qui s’activent dans l’entrepreneuriat numérique.

Aussi, une éventuelle coupure constituerait un frein au développement de toutes les entreprises sénégalaises et couches sociales qui dépendent du numérique.  

Vivement que le Sénégal, reconnu mondialement pour ces politiques progressives, maintienne l’internet ouvert lors du prochain scrutin pour l’intérêt de ses 16 millions d’habitants, car la liberté d’expression et de communication est une liberté fondamentale pour toute démocratie.

 

Emmanuel Vitus est membre de Google Policy chez Paradigm Initiative.

Digital rights are human rights, even during elections

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Uncategorized

By Babatunde Okunoye

In the context of Africa’s socio-economic challenges, elections are a high stakes process where heinous atrocities have been committed. The list includes mass killings, abductions, rape, arson and assassination. At the onset of the digital age, as the power of digital media became apparent by events such as the Arab Spring uprisings, the free flow of information during elections has also come under attack.

In Africa, Internet shutdowns or even limited social media blackouts have mainly occurred around elections or other political events. And we don’t need to look far behind to learn how, because in 2019 already we’ve had Internet shutdowns or social media shutdowns in Congo DRC, Chad, Sudan, Gabon and Zimbabwe – all politically motivated.

In Nigeria, we say ‘’there is no smoke without fire’’. When a few weeks ago the Nigerian Guardian, perhaps Nigeria’s most authoritative news source carried a report citing fears of an Internet shutdown in the country implemented by the government, there was clear concern among civil society activists. Hence our relief was palpable when the government later came out to deny such plans. We hope they keep to their word, unlike the authorities in Zimbabwe did after similar assurances. (See tips here to stay online in the event of internet restriction) 

As Nigeria chooses its President and other national leaders starting this Saturday, we urge the authorities to recall that elections are servants of national development. They serve as a vehicle to usher in new leaders and drivers of development for a nation. Their coming must never be heralded by the dark episode of an Internet disruption.

Internet shutdowns are human rights violations. They do not serve the purpose for which they’re implemented – usually to avoid the spread of violence or other trouble. Rather, the information blackout they occasion can be deadly in numerous humanitarian situations such as emergencies. As we all go out to vote to start on Saturday, we urge our leaders to also vote to keep the Internet on.

 

Babatunde Okunoye leads research at Paradigm Initiative. 

 

  

 

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.

Le Collectif tous pour All For Digital Rights Cameroon

By | Advocacy, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

Le Collectif tous pour All For Digital Rights Cameroon a organisé à Yaoundé au Cameroun le 20 octobre 2018, une session d’information sur les droits numériques. Cette session d’information intervient au lendemain de l’élection présidentielle du 7 octobre 2018.

La session de formation a été principalement animé par Rigobert Kenmogne, Google Policy Fellow, par ailleurs point focal de Paradigm Initiative au Cameroun et Afrique francophone. Il a d’abord présenté les activités de Paradigm Initiative au Cameroun ces derniers mois avant d’échanger avec les participants sur les « instruments et les acteurs des droits numériques du pays ». On retient dans sa communication que le Cameroun a connu trois périodes importantes pour son développement numérique, avec des instruments politico juridiques qui interagissent entre cinq parties prenantes à savoir le gouvernement, la société civile, le secteur privé, les communautés techniques et les organisations internationales. A ces parties prenantes s’ajoutent des acteurs multiformes.

L’intérêt de cette session d’information a été aussi celui de présenter le paysage juridique et législatif dans lequel le consommateur Camerounais jouit du service Internet. Une action s’inscrit dans la dynamique d’un plaidoyer devant aboutir à l’adoption d’un texte de lois plus spécifique sur les droits numériques, donc l’usage fait déjà partir du quotidien des Camerounais.

Ce projet fait partie des activités financées par Internews au Cameroun avec le soutien technique de Afroleadership est le résultat des séries formations menées par Paradigm Initiative au Cameroun en 2018. Les acteurs de la société civile actifs sur des questions numériques travaillent aussi pour faire asseoir une coalition capable de répondre aux préoccupations liées aux droits numériques.

Le chef du projet Ernest Yene, a salué la participation des journalistes, des webactivistes et autres utilisateurs des TIC. Une reconnaissance aussi à l’endroits des ONG qui travaillent pour la promotion des droits numériques au Cameroun

Bloggers, Rights Advocates Deplore Bloggers’ License Fee

By | Advocacy, ICT Policy

Tanzanian bloggers and digital rights advocates have condemned the recently introduced license fee for bloggers in the country. They made this call at a dinner organized by Paradigm Initiative in collaboration with  Article 19 and HIVOS  in Dar es Salam, Tanzania. Attendees at the July 9 dinner included a pool of local bloggers, lawyers, civil society organizations, the Dutch embassy, technical community, and media.

 

According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google  Policy Fellow, “the purpose of the dinner was to discuss the effects of the Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations 2018 that placed a requirement on bloggers and any other Internet-based service to share the names of their shareholders, their details, their approximate cost of investment, tax clearance certifications, pay slightly more than 900 USD in fees that includes an initial application fee, a licence fee and a renewable licence fee after 3 years and a lot more.”

 

‘Gbenga Sesan, Paradigm Initiative’s Executive Director and Sylvia Musalagani of Hivos led an interactive discussion with the participants.

 

Wilfred Warioba from the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance said “The new legislation is a tool that has been created to protect certain institutions. There is no room for these bloggers and online content creators to excel unless they touch on certain interests. This is a denial of the right to access to information but nonetheless, there is room for negotiation now that we are in the courts”

 

“You don’t have to be journalists to write and share any information. This new law denies new people space for innovation. Innovation through media is being stopped so how are we going to innovate through media if we are being stifled. On the economic front, it stifles the rights of the young people who have no resources but want to express themselves,” said a blogger at the dinner.

 

‘Gbenga Sesan also encouraged attendees to deliberate on the way forward in the fight against the license fee.

 

“What shall we do? What needs to be done? We should be able to have conversations around it. This is not just for bloggers. How do we let people know about this? The policy is for everyone. When an idea comes to you and you need help to you we are here to help. We always know someone who can hold hands. Let’s work together.” Sesan said.

 

Henry Maina, the regional director of Article 19 said, “Think about the reactive work e.g. where government and other actors have been ahead of us and we need to play catch up. We need the right people in the right spaces in order to move government on certain laws. It’s important to create standards because as specialists we cannot remain casual.”

 

Sylvia Musalangi of Hivos added, “We need to have more conversations on this. We need to get more voices. There is an issue on capacity in understanding the issues around this.”

 

It was agreed among all in attendance that it was vital to take immediate action and that it was paramount that all stakeholders have long-term conversations.

Freedom of expression online threatened in Tanzania

By | Advocacy, Internet Freedom

On the Monday of 11th June 2018, the Tanzanian government tightened its grip on free speech by ordering the immediate suspension of unregistered blogging sites and other online fora. Failure to suspend would lead to prosecution under Tanzania’s criminal law, forewarned the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA). The authority went ahead to explain that this move was in a bid to solve computer misuses such as hate speech, pornography, and online bullying.

Violators of the regulation will find themselves liable to paying a fine of at least five million Tanzania Shillings (2200 USD), serving a 12-month jail term or to both. This is in a bid to enforce the March Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations 2018 that requires bloggers and any other Internet-based service to reveal the names of their shareholders, their details, their approximate cost of investment, tax clearance certifications, pay slightly more than 900 USD in fees that includes an initial application fee, a licence fee and a renewable licence fee after 3 years and a lot more.

It is evident that this regulation only aims further stifle the already tight freedom of expression of the Internet in Tanzania. A popular site Jamiiforums  that is known to be used to expose unethical information on matters concerning the country continues to fight it out in court on grounds on infringement of the right to privacy of the freedom of expression. The appellate court is to rule on the freedom of expression in Tanzania but the most recent ruling was in the government’s favor.

Tanzania’s civil society  organizations have argued that “The law is part of a crackdown on dissent and free speech by the government of President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015”

The government of Tanzania is defying International, regional and national regulation with the legislation. It is evident that they have forgotten that, “ the same rights people have offline must also be protected online,” as provided in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-In this case the universal freedom of expression.

The exorbitant fees will only seek to ensure that bloggers from the lower end of the economic spectrum are off the net, taking away their source of livelihood and freedom of speech.

We urge that the government of Tanzania and president Magufuli recall this legislation as it grossly contributes towards the abuse of numerous human rights. We are calling on Tanzania to keep the Internet open and free.

“Suspension of Mohammed Wanigi a Flagrant Abuse of Power”- Paradigm Initiative, EiE

By | Advocacy, Internet Freedom, Press Release

Paradigm Initiative and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria have condemned in strong terms the suspension of Baba Mohammed Wanigi, a school teacher with the Agaie Local Government in Niger State, in reaction to Wanigi’s alleged criticism of government officials including President Muhammad Buhari. The two civil society organisations made this known in a jointly signed press statement released today.

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative Director of Programs, “The Local Education Authority of the Agaie Local Government Council, Niger state, Nigeria issued a suspension letter to one of its employees, Baba Mohammed Wanigi, a teacher in service of the Niger State government. According to the letter, the suspension was based on the teacher’s ‘active participation in politics and hate speech especially on the social media’. This is all because Mr Wanigi exercised his freedom of speech in criticising government and government officials on social media.”

“It is obvious that this act by the LEA is not only morally reprehensible but patently unconstitutional. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Section 39 provides that every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. This is a most basic right for citizens in a democracy,” Ogundipe said.

Every Nigerian is a key stakeholder in matters concerning Nigeria and no group or body may constitute itself as an authority to preclude its members from ‘Active participation in politics’. It makes no sense whatsoever, neither does it matter that a meeting was held with the 169 Head Teachers of Agaie Local Government Education Authority to decide against active participation in politics. The Local Government Education Authority does not have the authority to overrule the constitution or limit constitutionally-guaranteed rights.   

According to Adeboro Odunlami, a digital rights advocate with Paradigm Initiative, said, “The general definition of Hate Speech is any statement or speech that attacks a group or category of people and incites violence or prejudicial attack against them. A controversial statement is not hate speech. A dissenting opinion is not hate speech. An uncomfortable perspective is not hate speech. An unpopular stance is not hate speech. It is therefore wrong for the government to take disciplinary action against a person for no reason other than the expression of his opinion about the state of affairs and conduct of the administration.”

Also speaking on the matter, Adeolu Adekola, Program Manager of EiE Nigeria said, “As Nigeria moves towards the 2019 elections, we are concerned about politicians using this excuse and guise of hate speech to repress citizens and the opposition. Several attempts to control free speech especially on social media has been resisted and will continue to be challenged”.

“We recall the Frivolous Petition bill (Prohibition, etc) Bill 2015 sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah had a clause that sought to regulate the use of social media and short message service (SMS) in the country. This was resisted and in May 2016, the bill was withdrawn and thrown out. Also, section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, 2015 has loopholes that are being exploited to repress freedom of expression over the Nigerian cyberspace and civil liberties,” Adeolu said. EiE Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) are in court to challenge section 24 of the act.  

We therefore call on the Local Government to retract the suspension letter and decision and reinstate unconditionally Baba Mohammed Wanigi back into service. We also demand that an apology should be made to him for the gross infringement of his fundamental right to freedom of expression.

‘Gbenga Sesan Bemoans Attacks on Internet Freedom in Africa

By | Advocacy, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom, Press Release

A digital rights expert and the executive director of Paradigm Initiative, Mr ‘Gbenga Sesan has bemoaned the spate of attacks on internet freedom in Africa. Sesan was speaking at RightsCon, an international conference on digital rights recently in Toronto, Canada.

Sesan, while speaking on efforts by Paradigm Initiative and its partners to protect digital rights and freedom on the continent, said “At Paradigm Initiative, we do this annual report focused on the state of digital rights in Africa. In 2017, we looked at twenty-one African countries and one of the trends we have seen is that things are getting worse. In terms of clamp down on the media, in terms of clamp down on citizens, in terms of using excuses like national security to shut down the internet, things continue to go downhill in many countries across Africa.”

“In Nigeria, there is a new proposal on hate speech bill, and the definition of hate speech is very interesting actually, an insult is considered hate speech. So we have a situation where citizens would not be able to express themselves freely online. Next month, we will release our report on Nigeria and I can tell you right now that things are not looking great for Nigeria in terms of respect for internet freedom.”

Paradigm Initiative recently conducted an online pool on freedom of expression online in Nigeria, and it was discovered that 40% of respondents feel unsafe expressing themselves online.

Sesan also used the opportunity to talk about Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill that was recently passed by the National Assembly. He said the bill would ensure that digital rights are taken seriously in Nigeria and that those who violate these rights are held accountable under the law.

“We are excited about the passage of the bill by the national assembly. We hope the national assembly would expedite actions on transmitting the bill to the presidency for the presidential assent. Our hope is that the bill is signed into law before activities for the next elections in 2019 take centre stage.

Paradigm Initiative held three sessions at the international conference and all were focused on entrenching understanding of issues affecting digital rights and freedom in Africa. Other members of Paradigm Initiative at the conference were the Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs, and Boye Adegoke, the Digital Rights  Program Manager for Anglophone Africa.

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

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