Category

Digital Rights

Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum to Host Delegates from 38 Countries in Lagos

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

The seventh edition of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) will host delegates from 38 countries to deliberate on issues confronting the digital space in Africa. This is according to a press statement by Paradigm Initiative, the organiser of the conference of the 3-day conference. The Forum took off today in Lagos and will run until Thursday, April 25.

According to the statement, DRIF19 will welcome delegates from civil society, academia, media, technical community, government- including security agencies, judiciary, and legislature, and the private sector, from 32 countries in Africa, and 6 countries outside the continent. The Forum will also be live-streamed to a global online audience here, while those interested in monitoring conversations at the Forum can follow its hashtag, #DRIF19.

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, “formerly known as the Internet Freedom Forum, DRIF has become well known for its track record of tangible actionable outcomes and has gained a reputation as an important platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped, and policy directions forged. The broad categories of participants expected are state actors, civil society organizations, academia, human rights activists, technology entrepreneurs, gender activists, as well as policy enthusiasts and actors within the global internet governance space.”

DRIF features engaging conversations which draw on globally relevant issues, as well as Africa-specific challenges and opportunities. Panellists and participants are drawn based on a multi-stakeholder model, allowing stakeholders who have hitherto operated in silos to talk to one other about common challenges.

“For the first time, the Forum this year will focus considerably on digital inclusion conversations as the basis for digital rights, on a continent where internet penetration is lowest and the opportunities which ICTs provide remain elusive to many. This year’s edition will also feature more side sessions, allow for bilingual communication and participation as it has done since 2017, and encourage post-event collaborations to further strengthen the discourse of Internet Freedom in Africa,” Ogundipe added.

Speakers expected at the conference include Albert Antwi Boasiako, Ghana’s National Cybersecurity Advisor, Segun Mausi, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Africa Division, Hawa Ba, Head of the Senegal Country Office, Open Society for West Africa, and Lanre Osibona, Special Advisor on ICT to the President of Nigeria. Others are Dr Ernest Ndukwe, former Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Robert Muthuri of Strathmore University, and Onica Makwakwa, A4AI Africa Regional Coordinator

The Forum is expected to refocus attention on issues confronting the digital space on a continent where human rights online are routinely violated.

Paradigm Initiative Releases 2018 Annual Report, Demonstrates Impact

By | Digital Rights, Echoes From Life, Press Release

The social enterprise, Paradigm Initiative has released its 2018 annual report. The report provides insight into the work of the organisation, especially in how it lives up to its mission of improving the “livelihoods of underserved youths”.

Featured in the annual report is Joy Ukpong, an alumna of the group’s free digital inclusion program. At the time of joining the program, 27-year old Joy Ukpong’s income was N10,000 a month as a  struggling hairdresser in Ajegunle, Lagos. She was desperate for a break, and Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Inclusion program gave her the break which she wisely seized, learning relevant digital and life skills.

Few weeks after the conclusion of the 10-week training, Ukpong got a job as an administrative assistant at a law firm. Her income immediately jumped to N25,000. Thanks to her new skills, Ukpong has a more stable income and work structure that allows her to develop herself.

Her story, according to Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi, “is another proof that our investment in digital inclusion programs in underserved communities is indeed improving the livelihood of the beneficiaries.”

The Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan also said, “As a result of the year’s investment in under-served Nigerian youth, we were able to train 869 students through the 10-week LIFE program, LIFE@School Club and the quarterly workshops. 150 students got internships, picked up jobs, earned enough to return to school, joined apprenticeship programs and/or started micro businesses. During the year, the average income among our students grew from N4,805.15 to N23,083.25!”

Highlighting the group’s work in digital rights, Sesan said “In 2018, our Digital Rights work covered Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. We hosted 13 training programs, reviewed 36 policy documents, produced 12 research-based reports, acted on 20 digital rights violations, and led 4 litigation processes.”

The Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe said the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill in Nigeria is an important milestone for the group in 2018. The Bill, which was transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on February 5 2019, has been a major project of the group since 2014 when it began advocacy for the passage of a law dedicated to the protection of online rights and freedoms.

Paradigm Initiative, which was founded in Nigeria in 2007, is physically present in five African countries, from where it executes programs across the continent.  The group said its new Strategic Management Plan (2019-2023) would even see it do more over the next few years.

Protect Press Freedom, Paradigm Initiative Urges Ugandan Government

By | Digital Rights

Paradigm Initiative condemns the actions of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) which ordered the immediate suspension of a news website published by Monitor Publications Limited.

As reported by Committee to Protect Journalists, the Monitor group came under investigation following claims by the Speaker of the Uganda parliament which accused the paper of publishing fake news. The UCC claimed the news site was unlicensed. The issued notice by UCC on registration of online content providers was issued last year in March.

The case of the Daily Monitor highlights the many attempts and actions that are stifling press freedom within Uganda and Africa overall. On the day the news site suspension was ordered, BBC investigative journalists were arrested on the ground of illegal possession of restricted drugs during an undercover investigation of the black market of medicine in Uganda.

Arrest, closure and even physical abuse are often used as a means of suppressing and threatening the exercising of a free press in Uganda. Last year a number of journalists were beaten and their equipment damaged. On August 23, 2018, the police brutally attacked and damaged tools of journalists who were covering protests for the release of Bobi Wine. The plight of the press in Uganda is dire as the Ugandan president of Uganda has openly threatened and accused them of defamation and incitement.

Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy for East Africa, Rebecca Ryakitimbo said, “We urge the government of Uganda to review repressive laws such as Anti-Terrorism Act 2002, the Press and Journalism Act 1995, and the Public Order Management Act 2013 among others that hinder a free press.Without a free press, society is doomed to suffer from misinformation and the media ecosystem is further oppressed with only a handful of players making it a scene of the chosen few and crime to the masses.”

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. 

 

  

 

On Zimbabwe’s Approval of a Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill

By | Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

The government of Zimbabwe has approved the Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill of 2017 according to IT Web Africa . The Bill which has been under review for over two years is a merger of three draft Bills, namely the Data Protection Bill, the Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commerce Bill, and the Computer Crime and Cybercrimes Bill.

Coincidentally, the legislation’s approval comes a few weeks after an internet shutdown was experienced during January 2019 public protests over rising fuel and other commodity prices. While many factions challenged the legality of using the Interception of Communications Act 2017 to effect the internet blockage, the Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill was met with similar criticisms. Critics have pointed out its inability to appeal to a wider purpose other than criminalisation of cybercrimes and computer crimes, without giving provision for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

The move to approve the Bill is widely viewed as a means, by the government of Zimbabwe, to fast track laws that will stifle freedom of expression, access to information, promote interference of private communications and data, and in severe cases, search and seizure of private devices.

Paradigm Initiative agrees with the position of the Zimbabwe Democratic Institute that the crafting of the Bill was driven by government’s fear of citizen power and its will to protect itself from civic pressure unveiled by unrestrained internet freedoms rather than the need to improve citizen’s security online.

The internet in Zimbabwe has played a critical role in mobilizing people for demonstrations calling for democracy, justice and accountability. If the law comes into effect, people will face up to 5 years in prison, a fine or both for inciting violence using social media pages. In January 2019, activist and Pastor Evan Mawarire was detained for two weeks for encouraging citizens to turn up in large numbers to participate in a planned peaceful protest using a YouTube video.

The Cybercrime and Cybersecurity  Bill which aims to address ‘cybercrime and increase cybersecurity in order to build confidence and trust in the secure use of ICTs’, will also facilitate the establishment of a Cyber Security Committee. The multi-stakeholder committee will act as a policy advisory body and as a national contact on cybersecurity issues.

Zimbabwe has been a hotbed for internet related disruptions and arrests in Southern Africa, with a record of multiple social media blocks and a total internet shutdown in 2016 and 2019 respectively.  The Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services defended the country’s recent internet blockage stating that he would not hesitate to shut down the internet again.

There has been no official communication from the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services regarding the Bills approval and the official document has not been made available to the public as of publishing this article. Paradigm Initiative calls on the government to cease all attacks on digital rights.

CSOs, Nigerians Urge President Buhari to Sign Digital Rights Bill

By | Digital Rights, ICT Policy

Abuja, Nigeria

The National Assembly on Tuesday February 5 transmitted the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent. The Bill, which had been in Parliament since 2016, was passed by both chambers of the Parliament in 2018.

Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise that has led the advocacy campaign in support of the bill, commended the National Assembly and urged President Buhari to immediately sign the Bill into law. This is according to a statement signed by its Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.

According to ‘Gbenga Sesan, Paradigm Initiative’s Executive Director, “We are happy the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill has now been transmitted to President Buhari. Mr President now has a unique opportunity to position Nigeria as a leader in rights-respecting laws in Africa by signing the Bill into law.”

Yemi Adamolekun, the Executive Director of Enough Is Enough Nigeria, said, “It is significant that the gesture is happening on a day globally celebrated as the Safer Internet Day. There is now global attention on Nigeria to finish the important work it started by signing the Bill into law.”

The Africa Regional Coordinator of Web Foundation, Nnenna Nwakanma also added, “As the World Wide Web turns 30, Nigerians can not wait any longer for digital rights, freedoms and opportunities. The President’s Assent is urgently needed to secure fundamental rights, to support a stronger digital economy, and to build a more secure internet.”

The President will have 30 days from the day it receives the communication from the National Assembly to assent to the Bill.

Speaking on the development, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Manager, Boye Adegoke said, “To its credit, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has signed some landmark Bills such as the Not too young to run Bill and the Disability Bill.”

“If signed, the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill will add to what appears to be a forward-looking disposition of the Administration to policymaking. What President Muhammadu Buhari does with the Bill will go a long way to define the administration’s disposition towards technology and its viability in improving the economic base of Nigeria,” Adegoke said.

A digital rights advocate and lawyer, Tomiwa Ilori characterised the bill as a potpourri of protected freedoms in the digital age. “Nigeria will be at the cusp of history for being the first country to pass such comprehensive law with respect to securing human rights for the future. We have a golden opportunity of resetting digital policy across the board for human rights, we should take it,” Ilori said.

Commenting on the importance of the Bill, Angela Quintal, Africa program coordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists said, “this Bill shows that it is possible for African governments to write regulations and laws that work for, not against, journalists. President Muhammadu Buhari should prove his commitment to Nigerian leadership on digital rights in Africa by signing the bill into law before the election on February 16.”


For more information on this statement, please contact Sodiq Alabi, Communications Officer, via media@paradigmhq.org.

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.

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