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Paradigm Initiative Releases Digital Rights in Africa Report 2019 

By | Press Release

Accra, March 23, 2020 – Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working to advance digital rights and inclusion in Africa, has released the 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report.

Building on previous reports published since 2016, the Digital Rights in Africa Report 2019 gives an in-depth analysis of the state of digital rights in Africa, and examines violations such as Internet disruptions, illegal surveillance, arrest of bloggers and the passage of hurtful legislation, amongst others.

According to Babatunde Okunoye, Research Officer at Paradigm Initiative, “the 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report, titled, ‘Violations Reloaded: Government Overreach Persists Despite Increased Civil Society Advocacy’ takes a critical look at the state of digital rights in 13 African countries – Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

Speaking about the findings of the  report, Emmanuel Vitus, Communications Officer at  Paradigm Initiative said, “African countries are now adopting repressive models of Informational controls borrowed from authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China — a worrying signal which forebodes ill for the future of open and inclusive societies in Africa.” He continued: “This happens through a motley of targeted shutdowns, surveillance, arbitrary legislation to silence digital users. African nations are  becoming adept at controlling information both inside and outside their borders”.

“In addition to the publication of the 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report, we are currently working with a media company to convert the report into a short movie. This will be followed by regional media briefings that will discuss our findings from the report, across Paradigm Initiative’s offices in Accra, Abuja, Arusha, Lagos, Lusaka  and Yaoundé, later in the year. The report is available for download, via Paradigm Initiative’s website, in English and French,” said Adeboye Adegoke, Digital Rights Program Manager at  Paradigm Initiative.

Bulanda Nkhowani, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Officer for Southern Africa, and a report contributor, stated, “Digital rights have become increasingly contested in Africa, with rights-limiting legislation, Internet shutdowns and other violations regularly headlining international media reporting. The 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report investigates and documents these violations, serving as a body of evidence for advocacy for greater digital rights. In the fight against digital rights violations in Africa, civil society must persevere and use all the tools at their disposal, including research, to ensure that digital rights become respected and upheld.’’

Paradigm Initiative wishes to express a profound appreciation to the Netherlands Embassy, Ford Foundation and OSIWA for their support in producing this report. Their continued support for digital rights programs in Nigeria, and the rest of Africa, has been pivotal to ensuring that human rights in the digital age remains a priority. 

For more comments or feedback on this press release, please contact Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer, Emmanuel Vitus, at emmanuel.vitus@paradigmhq.org


Download the Report Here


Social Media Posts 

  • In Africa today, drawing from Chinese and Russian models of Information Controls, the information space is now perceived as a legitimate theatre of conflict – much the same way as land, air and the sea are established theatres of conflict. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Inspired by the Russian and Chinese models, many more countries are openly violating digital rights, under the guise of the rule of law in many instances. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Africa’s digital rights organizations, collaborators in legacy human rights institutions and other civil society actors must join ranks to advance digital rights in the face of grave threats on the continent. #NetAfrica19   @ParadigmHQ 
  • CSO’s vigorous advocacy is forcing digital rights from the fringe to the mainstream of public consciousness. More Africans have become sensitized to the harms of digital rights violations. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ 
  • Benin is among the first African countries to have a national legal instrument that protects digital rights, However, the repressive nature of some provisions of this law raises fears in terms of violation of fundamental freedoms online. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Civil society actors in Cameroon are working to draft a specific law governing social media and the Internet. In the meantime, the law No. 2010/012 of 21st December 2010 on cybersecurity and cybercrime is used to regulate cyberspace. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Digital rights in Egypt, in the past 4 years, has been shaped by the brutal repression by the Sisi regime, and the prospects for the future of digital rights under the regime is not exactly bright. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Despite great progress made since Prime Minister Abiy became Ethiopia’s Prime Minister in 2018 there is still a long way to go for realization of rights, including digital rights. These rights are often seen as an avenue for citizens to hold governments accountable.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • In Morocco, NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware has enabled the regime of King Mohammed VI  to suppress citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly since 2017.    #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Reversing some of the gains of 2018, Nigeria’s President, @MBuhari declined assent to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB 490) in 2019. The Bill was drafted to protect the rights of Nigerians online.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Rwanda’s Media Law is oppressive as it states penalties for crimes committed through the press such as vague language and any publication that is considered to be in “contempt to the Head of State” or “endangers public decency.” #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • In Sudan, Cyber cafe owners are required by law to download filtering apps. The government, through its Internet service control unit, has been blocking content. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Under the regime of President Magufuli, the international perception of #Tanzania has shifted from being well regarded to international umbrage due to the rapid shutdown of its online space.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • In Zambia, in the absence of Data Protection laws, institutions continue to collect citizen’s personal data for various purposes, including SIM card registration conducted by network providers. #NetAfrica19@ ParadigmHQ
  • 2019 saw a heightened interest by the government of Zimbabwe to patrol cyberspace, especially in the wake of the purchase of Cloud Walk facial recognition software that was acquired from China in 2018. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • @ParadigmHQ wishes to express a profound appreciation to the Netherlands Embassy (@NLinNigeria), @FordFoundation and @OSIWA1 for their support in producing this report. Their support has been pivotal to ensuring that human rights remains a priority. #NetAfrica19

Paradigm Initiative publie le rapport 2019 sur les droits numériques en Afrique

By | Press Release

Accra, 23 mars 2020 – Paradigm Initiative, une organisation panafricaine à but non lucratif qui travaille à faire progresser les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique, a publié ce mercredi le rapport 2019 sur les droits numériques en Afrique.

S’appuyant sur les précédents rapports publiés depuis 2016, le Rapport 2019 sur les droits numériques en Afrique donne une analyse approfondie de l’état des droits numériques en Afrique, et examine les violations telles que les perturbations d’Internet, la surveillance illégale, l’arrestation de blogueurs et l’adoption de lois préjudiciables, entre autres.

Selon Babatunde Okunoye, chargé de recherche à Paradigm Initiative, le rapport 2019 sur les droits numériques en Afrique, intitulé ” Nouveaux cas de violations: les dérives des gouvernements persistent malgré les mobilisations intenses de la société civile ” jette un regard critique sur l’état des droits numériques dans 13 pays africains : le Bénin, le Cameroun, la République démocratique du Congo, l’Égypte, l’Éthiopie, le Malawi, le Maroc, le Nigeria, le Rwanda, le Soudan, la Tanzanie, la Zambie et le Zimbabwe.

S’exprimant sur les conclusions du rapport, Emmanuel Vitus, responsable de la communication à Paradigm Initiative, a déclaré : « Les pays africains adoptent désormais des modèles répressifs de contrôle de l’information empruntés à des régimes autoritaires tels que la Russie et la Chine.  C’est un signal inquiétant qui ne présage rien de bon pour des sociétés ouvertes et inclusives en Afrique ».

Il a poursuivi : « Cela se produit par le biais d’un ensemble d’arrêts ciblés, de surveillance, de législations arbitraires visant à réduire au silence les utilisateurs de l’informatique. Les nations africaines deviennent expertes dans le contrôle de l’information tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur de leurs frontières”.

« En plus de la publication du rapport 2019 sur les droits numériques en Afrique, nous travaillons actuellement avec une société de médias pour adapter le rapport en un court métrage. Cela sera suivi de briefings régionaux pour les médias qui seront intéressés par  des conclusions du rapport, dans nos bureaux à Accra, Abuja, Arusha, Lagos, Lusaka et Yaoundé, plus tard dans l’année. Le rapport est disponible en téléchargement, en anglais et en français, sur paradigmhq.org/DRA19-fr », a déclaré Adeboye Adegoke, responsable du programme des droits numériques à Paradigm Initiative.

Bulanda Nkhowani, responsable du programme des droits numériques de Paradigm Initiative pour l’Afrique australe, et collaborateur au rapport, a déclaré : « Les droits numériques sont de plus en plus contestés en Afrique, avec des législations limitant les droits, des fermetures d’Internet et d’autres violations qui font régulièrement la une des médias internationaux. Le rapport 2019 sur les droits numériques en Afrique enquête et documente ces violations et sert de preuves pour le plaidoyer en faveur de droits numériques plus importants. Dans la lutte contre les violations des droits numériques en Afrique, la société civile doit persévérer et utiliser tous les outils à sa disposition, y compris la recherche, pour s’assurer que les droits numériques soient respectés et maintenus.

Paradigm Initiative souhaite exprimer sa profonde gratitude à l’Ambassade des Pays-Bas, à la Fondation Ford et à OSIWA pour leur soutien dans la production de ce rapport. Leur soutien continu aux programmes de droits numériques au Nigeria, et dans le reste de l’Afrique, a été essentiel pour garantir que les droits de l’homme à l’ère numérique restent une priorité.

Pour plus de commentaires ou de réactions sur ce communiqué de presse, veuillez contacter le responsable de la communication de Paradigm Initiative, Emmanuel Vitus, à l’adresse emmanuel.vitus@paradigmhq.org


Telechargez le rapport ici


Posts pour les Réseaux Sociaux

  • En Afrique aujourd’hui, en s’inspirant des modèles chinois et russe de contrôle de l’information, l’espace de l’information est désormais perçu comme un théâtre légitime de conflit – tout comme la terre, l’air et la mer sont des théâtres de conflit établis.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Inspirés par les modèles russe et chinois, de nombreux autres pays violent ouvertement les droits numériques, sous le couvert de l’État de droit.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Les organisations africaines de défense des droits numériques, les collaborateurs des anciennes institutions de défense des droits de l’homme et les autres acteurs de la société civile doivent unir leurs efforts pour faire progresser les droits numériques face aux graves menaces qui pèsent sur le continent.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Le plaidoyer vigoureux des OSC fait passer les droits numériques de la marginalité à la conscience publique. De plus en plus d’Africains ont été sensibilisés aux méfaits des violations des droits numériques.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ 
  • Le Bénin est l’un des premiers pays africains à disposer d’un instrument juridique national qui protège les droits numériques. Cependant, le caractère répressif de certaines dispositions de cette loi fait craindre une violation des libertés fondamentales en ligne.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Les acteurs de la société civile au Cameroun travaillent à l’élaboration d’une loi spécifique régissant les réseaux sociaux et l’Internet. En attendant, la loi n° 2010/012 du 21 décembre 2010 sur la cybersécurité et la cybercriminalité sert à réglementer le cyberespace.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Les droits numériques en Égypte, au cours des 4 dernières années, ont été façonnés par la répression brutale du régime de Sisi, et les perspectives d’avenir des droits numériques sous ce régime ne sont pas vraiment brillantes.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Malgré les grands progrès réalisés depuis que Abiy est devenu Premier ministre de l’Éthiopie en 2018, il reste encore un long chemin à parcourir pour la réalisation des droits, y compris les droits numériques. Ces droits sont souvent considérés comme un moyen pour les citoyens de demander des comptes aux gouvernements.   #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Au Maroc, le logiciel espion Pegasus du groupe NSO a permis au régime du roi Mohammed VI de supprimer les droits des citoyens à la liberté d’expression, d’association et de réunion pacifique depuis 2017.     #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Inversant certains des acquis de 2018, le président du Nigeria, @MBuhari, a refusé de promulguer la loi sur les droits et libertés numériques (HB 490) en 2019. Ce projet de loi a été rédigé pour protéger les droits des Nigérians en ligne.   #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • La loi rwandaise sur les médias est oppressive car elle prévoit des sanctions pour les crimes commis par le biais de la presse et  considérée comme un “outrage au chef de l’État” ou “mettant en danger la décence publique”. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Au Soudan, les propriétaires de cybercafés sont tenus par la loi de télécharger des applications de filtrage. Le gouvernement, par l’intermédiaire de son unité de contrôle des services Internet peut bloquer des contenus.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • Sous le régime du président Magufuli, la perception internationale de #Tanzania est passée d’un pays à  bonne réputation à une « honte internationale » en raison de la fermeture rapide de son espace en ligne cyberspace.   #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • En Zambie, en l’absence de lois sur la protection des données, les institutions continuent de collecter les données personnelles des citoyens à diverses fins, notamment pour l’enregistrement des cartes SIM effectué par les fournisseurs de réseau.  #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • En 2019, le gouvernement du Zimbabwe a manifesté un intérêt accru pour les patrouilles dans le cyberespace, depuis  l’achat du logiciel de reconnaissance faciale Cloud Walk, acquis de la Chine en 2018. #NetAfrica19 @ParadigmHQ
  • @ParadigmHQ souhaite exprimer sa profonde gratitude à l’Ambassade des Pays-Bas (@NLinNigeria), à la @FordFoundation et à @OSIWA1 pour leur soutien dans la production de ce rapport. Leur soutien a été essentiel pour garantir que les droits de l’homme restent une priorité. #NetAfrica19

Paradigm Initiative Selects Inaugural Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab (DRILL) Fellow

By | Press Release

Accra – Ghana,  February 18, 2020 – a second-year doctoral student at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA, has been selected  as the pioneer Fellow for the newly introduced Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab (DRILL) at Paradigm Initiative. 

“We are pleased to announce the selection of Folasewa Olatunde, and we’re also excited about the quality of applications the fellowship, though just starting, attracted,” said ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative. 

There are both enormous challenges and opportunities for realizing the ambitious task of creating an inclusive, healthy, safe and open Internet in the coming decade for all Africans and we hope this fellowship will offer a space for big thinking, evaluation of digital rights and digital inclusion programs, and future-proofing of ecosystem activities,” Mr. Sesan added.

Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab (DRILL) is Paradigm Initiative’s project to host innovative learning around digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, the learning lab serves as a space for both practice and reflection, aimed to involve and connect different stakeholders and create dialogue amongst researchers, social innovators, policymakers and actors, the private sector, as well as civil society. 

Learning activities will take place at the lab in order to evolve new thinking on digital rights and inclusion strategy for Africa. There are a variety of activities that will take place, including but not limited to, focused future-facing research; presentations; ecosystem meetings and discussions focused on digital rights and/or inclusion hosted within the ecosystem; and general communication about the lab’s activities.

Meanwhile, the Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship, another Paradigm Initiative project, has attracted 116 applications from 19 countries.  This is according to a statement released by Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise working on digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

The pioneer Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab fellow, Folasewa Olatunde, is a second-year doctoral student at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, studying Communication Rhetoric and Digital Media. She is a communication and digital media practitioner, researcher and instructor. She is interested in researching the intersections of the internet, social media and mobile phones – and other digital technologies –  in (not) empowering the global south.

Her current research focuses on evaluating informal and formal basic digital skills interventions in Nigeria and how their functions can be improved. Fola’ believes that more social science research should be policy-driven. She is passionate about how Nigerians across different age groups can (continue to) learn to use digital technologies to improve their socio-economic conditions.

 Paradigm Initiative Urges Ethiopian Government to Rethink Hate Speech Law

By | Digital Rights, Internet Freedom, Press Release

Arusha, Tanzania, February 17, 2020 — On 13th February the parliament of Ethiopia passed the much-contested proclamation on fake news and hate speech regulation with nearly 300 votes from the lawmakers in support.The country started speaking publicly about developing such a law in 2018 and announced passage of the proclamation by the government in November 2019.

The history of Ethiopia has always had the government keeping a upper hand on the citizens through oppressive laws and internet censorship.Waves of protests have been on the rise since 2015 with violence and human rights violations highly observed at such times including killing of protestors and regular internet shutdowns.

Content has been a landscape that the country has tried to control by taking down websites and maintaining monopoly of  the telecom sector .Despite the progress made since Prime Minister Abiy took over, the information space is still highly regulated, with last year alone reporting more than 3 shutdowns.

With rising tensions and communal violence since 2018 the government has since claimed that such were fuelled by online speech.Following the attempted coup in Oromo state last year and the killing of about 86 people the Prime Minister was quoted saying, “For the sake of national security, internet and social media could be blocked any time necessary.” The state has since gone on to have more shutdowns hence silencing dissent by making online avenues inaccessible for people to exercise their rights.As Ethiopia approaches elections in August this year, a free and fair election demands the ability to exercise free speech and opinion by all Ethiopians, this bill comes in time to take away that right.

Law makers claim that hate speech and fake news are much to blame for the rising ethnic tensions in the country hence its important that they legislate this ahead of the elections.The law is vaguely done and leaves room for biased interpretations this includes definitions such as hate speech which means “speech that promotes hatred, discrimination or attacks against a person or an identifiable group, based on ethnicity, religion, race, gender or disability.”This leaves room for the law to be used as a weapon to incriminate free speech in the upcoming elections as it’s not clear or objective enough.

The new legislation also stops dissemination of information cited as fake, hateful among other things without clearly identifying the process of determining whether speech is inciting, hateful and/or fake.The danger is the implications this will have on free speech as well as a free press as the law also targets  media such as social media as avenues of hate speech and fake news dissemination.This makes the already shaky ground of digital rights in the country even more unstable not guaranteeing transparency and free elections.The laws criminalize this offence with fines as high as 3000$  and jail time of up to 5 years for violations of the proclamation which are not realistic.

Paradigm Initiative urges the government of Ethiopia to reconsider this regulation and come to the realization that hate speech cannot be combated by regulating speech but rather it will only fuel rights violations and lead to greater damages.

It is essential that the government of Ethiopia reaffirms its commitment to human rights by keeping speech free and building legal frameworks to promote democracy and good governance hence steering the nation to stability rather than legislate restrictions.

We commend efforts made so far by the government such as the unblocking of several websites that had been blocked during a period of instability in the nation, however, methods employed then didn’t work and similar methods of censorship won’t make progress.It’s imperative that the online space be proved to  be safe spaces respected by the government as an avenue for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights.

 

 

Data Breach by LIRS: Why NITDA must wield the big stick

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

In December 2019, the personal data of numerous taxpayers in Lagos State was leaked on the payment portal of the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), violating not only their right to privacy under the Constitution but also the provisions of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) 2019 issued by National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) – the regulator. 

It should be noted that we had expressed reservations over the ability and suitability of NITDA   to play the role of a data protection agency in Nigeria. One would have thought the agency would work to prove doubters wrong by ensuring that violations against its regulations are duly punished.

We are mindful that the Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative (DRLI) has filed suit No. FHC/L/CS/56/2020 against both LIRS and NITDA on the data breach seeking orders mandating NITDA to fine LIRS as provided under the NDPR to the tune of 2% of their annual gross revenue. We are monitoring this process and we will work with the litigant to ensure it is seen to a reasonable conclusion

In addition to the specified fine, the NDPR provides for compensation for victims of a data breach, but the Lagos State government has said nothing about this,  in spite (or despite?) of their admission of guilt. 

We hereby call upon NITDA to stop paying lip service to data protection In Nigeria and to fulfill its role as a regulator on one hand and Lagos State government to compensate victims of the data breach as admitted. NITDA must give an update on all data breaches reported to it since the inception of the NDPR. 

Finally, Nigeria should enact a data protection law duly passed by the National Assembly and signed by the president. The law should set up an independent Data Protection Authority with core mandate for data protection in Nigeria.

Signed

Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE) and Paradigm Initiative (PIN)

Coalition Statement On Emerging Legislations on “Fake News” and Hate Speech in Africa

By | Press Release

We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our concern over the increasing trend of draft legislation on hate speech and “fake news” in the region. Many African governments have begun to draft legislation on these issues without regard to their obligations to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to protect the right of everyone to freedom of opinion and expression.

Article 19 includes the right to receive and impart, regardless of frontiers, information, and ideas through any media whatsoever. It is our position that the ongoing attempts to regulate the use of social media through overarching draft legislation with broad terms serve to decrease the openness of the internet and these draft legislations mask human rights violations and create barriers to long-term stability and peaceful dialogue.

Nigeria 

There has been an onslaught of anti-democratic draft bills in Nigeria within the past few months. In October, the Nigerian Senate introduced the Communication Service Tax Bill sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Nigerian Army. The Bill proposes a monthly tax burden on users of electronic communications services including services such as voice calls, SMS, MMS, pay-per-view services, and internet communication services. 

In November, the Senate introduced the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019 sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa. This bill seeks to regulate communications in cyberspace. The Senator mentioned that the Bill is being presented for ‘patriotic Nigerians’ who want peace for the country. The Bill punishes the transmission of false facts online, the provision of services to transmit falsehood, and the failure of firms and telcos to check abuses via their platforms. 

Another Bill that has raised concerns of pro-democratic organizations and citizens alike is The National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill 2019 also introduced in November. The Bill seeks to establish an Independent National Commission for Hate Speech, which would be empowered to enforce the laws and advise the federal government. The Bill prescribes a range of punishments including death by hanging for perpetrators of hate speech. The danger of the passage of this bill and the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill is even more amplified by the flagrant treatment of critical or dissident speech as hate speech by government officials in Nigeria. 

Despite strong criticism, Nigeria’s Information minister insists the country will go ahead with proposed social media regulation through amendments to the country’s Broadcasting Code to regulate online mediums. Civil society organizations working in Nigeria have expressed concerns that the ministry is using the broadcasting code, which is secondary legislation as a decoy to avoid public scrutiny on the proposed amendments.

Ethiopia

On the weekend of November 9, 2019, the cabinet of Ethiopia approved a new bill, called the Computer Crime Proclamation Bill that aims to prevent hate speech and dissemination of fake news, and referred the same to the House of Peoples Representatives for approval. The bill has not yet been made public, however, judging from the trend of internet controls in Ethiopia including the history of internet shutdowns, it can be deduced that one of the components that the law will touch on will be speech online including platforms such as Facebook and blogs, among others. Ethiopia is set for elections next year in May, hence the bill may become a weapon to silence dissent. 

Cameroon

At the beginning of the parliamentary session in November 2019, the Cameroonian government presented a bill in parliament that seeks to criminalize hate speech and tribalism. The bill, which criminalises and punishes the act through the amendment of section 241 of the penal code, was tabled Wednesday, November 13, 2019, at the National Assembly for prior consideration. The first paragraph of the Explanatory Memorandum states that “the amendment of this provision is now necessary in order to discourage the rise of hate speech of a tribalist and communitarian nature in the public space, particularly on social media, which endanger peace, security and national cohesion.” 

The Gambia

In The Gambia, while the cabinet responded to criticism and announced the removal of provisions that sought to criminalize insults in its revised criminal offenses bill,  it must also take similar steps to revise the Gambia Media Services Bill, which has been criticized as targeting journalists and their ability to do their work. This must also include every other legislation which emboldened dictatorships in its recent past. The Gambia must not reverse on the gains of its last election and should work with all stakeholders to review its laws in such a way as to emphasize its commitment to strong democratic principles. 

The Way Forward

On July 1, 2016, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in Geneva, in which the Council affirms that human rights that apply in the non-virtual world must be applied with the same strength in cyberspace. Above all, the Council strongly condemns “the intentional measures to prevent or disrupt access or sharing information online.” While hate speech and fake news are global realities, efforts by the State to address the issues must take into consideration, their commitments to human rights obligations. It is imperative that States at this stage respect their obligations to respect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and the press. 

We hereby call on the respective policy-making institutions and agencies in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Nigeria, and other African countries that are considering similar rights-hurting bills, to take steps to discontinue and drop all draft legislations with provisions that would negatively impact how people participate online and use digital platforms. We encourage States to adopt an open process that accommodates the views of everyone, especially civil society, towards the enactment of new laws or revision of existing ones, and ensure draft legislation does not have the potential to infringe on the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. It is important that such proposals must provide for targeted judicial oversight, as safeguards are essential to prevent unaccountable and overzealous censorship.

Also, we call on the United Nations and African regional organizations such as the African Union, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and others, to prevail on States to stay true to their commitments to international obligations to protect the rights of their citizens at all times.

Signed

  1. African Academic Network on Internet Policy
  2. African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (AfDec)
  3. African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX)
  4. AfroLeadership, Cameroon
  5. Afrotribune, Togo
  6. Ayin Network – Sudan
  7. Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)
  8. BudgIT Foundation
  9. Center for Media Research – Nepal (CMR-Nepal)
  10. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  11. Civil Society Advocacy Network on Climate Change and the Environment – Sierra Leone (CAN-SL)
  12. Co-Creation Hub
  13. Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
  14. Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria
  15. Gambia Cyber Security Alliance
  16. Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
  17. Global Rights
  18. HipCity Innovation Center
  19. Index on Censorship
  20. Information Security for Africa (ISfA)
  21. Institut Panos Grands Lacs
  22. Internet Freedom Foundation
  23. Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan
  24. Internet Sans Frontiers
  25. ISOC Nigeria Chapter
  26. Jamii Forums, Tanzania
  27. KICTANet
  28. Ladies Empowerment Goals and Support Initiative (LEGASI)
  29. Liberia Information Technology student Union
  30. Media Matters for Democracy, Pakistan
  31. Media Monitoring Africa
  32. Media Rights Agenda
  33. Merit Legal Advocacy & Human Rights Initiative (MELAHRI)
  34. Molly Land, Professor of International law and human rights
  35. NetBlocks
  36. Nigeria Youth IGF
  37. Open Net Korea
  38. Paradigm Initiative
  39. PEN America
  40. Praxis Center
  41. Public and Private Development Centre
  42. Rwanda Clubs for Peace Organization
  43. Senegal ICT Users Association
  44. SMEX
  45. Take Back Nigeria Movement (TBN)
  46. TechHer
  47. The Right 2 Know Campaign
  48. Youth Initiative for Africa Development
  49. Digital Africa Research Lab

Tanzanian Parliament Passes Digital Rights-Hurting Amendments Despite Pushback by Civil Society Organizations

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

On June 27, 2019 the Tanzanian parliament passed into law amendments to the Written Laws despite pushback from civil society and human rights defenders. The Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments No. 3 of 2019) Bill was made public on June 19 under a “certificate of urgency” to speed up its passage. The discussions concerning the bill began in Parliament on June 21, 2019. Members of civil society raised their concerns over the short notice to provide feedback on the Bill on the morning of June 21. ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, a digital rights organisation working in the region, stated that “Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) urged that if this bill was to be passed it would restrict the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, placing impermissible restrictions on civil society organisations’ operations’’.

The laws proposed to be amended included the Non-Governmental Organisations Act 2002 (NGOs Act), Society Act, Trustees and Incorporations Act and The Companies Act 2002 among others. These four laws are among the main laws which govern Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Tanzania hence raising concerns over whether this was targeted as well as the previous laws to further compress democracy in Tanzania. Tope Ogundipe, Director of Programs Paradigm Initiative, noted, “On June 21 and 22, 2019, some CSOs managed to submit their views before Parliamentary committees in Dodoma. However yesterday the Parliament passed it with only a handful of recommendations being carried forward’’.

The role of Civil Society in fostering development and protecting human rights can not be underestimated. CSO’s have not only provided jobs but have contributed to positive development in various sectors of the economy and wellbeing of the nation. In a statement issued by the Tanzania Human rights defenders coalition (THRDC) along with over 300 other CSO’s, the urgency of passing this bill did not give reasonable time for the public to comprehend the implications of such a law. In attempts to push back, movements such as Change Tanzania published an online petition to collect signatures to lobby the parliament to give more time for comments before passing. However despite collection of over 900 signatures in a span of two days, the petition fell on deaf ears.

There are some positive aspects to the amendments such as the Statistics Act now giving room for due process, as well decriminalizing publishing of statistics data. However, the National Bureau of Statistics still has the final say on the approval of statistics. A post on Instagram by THRDC said that “The government has agreed to put in place procedures for compliance for companies and NGO’s, make amendments to the definition of NGO, Amendments of section 26 which was to give the registrar powers to suspend an NGO Pending determination by the board and monitor and evaluate NGO’s on a quarterly basis’’. Other sections include section 27 and 28 which covers deregistration of NGO’s which fail to comply within the time frame of 2 months. However, it is still unclear which of the specific recommendations from stakeholders have been taken into account when making amendments under the provisions highlighted.

The Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan, added, “The country has passed a series of oppressive laws in a short span of slightly over a year when they first released the changes to the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) in March last year’’. This was followed by amendments to the Statistical Act and then the Political Parties Act that was passed earlier this year as well, not giving enough time for concrete responses from stakeholders. While the county is approaching elections, the role of civil society at this crucial time is jeopardized.

For the citizens of Tanzania there’s no safe space both offline and online. With content online subject to fall under the Cybercrime Act or seen as a violation of EPOCA there’s no room to express views. With the coming in of such new laws Civil society that have been working towards seeking redress and legal strategies to protect human rights including digital rights are left exposed.The role CSO’s have of building communities of trust both offline and online and keeping citizens engaged in matters of direct concern via media and other means will also be challenged. The possibility of some NGOs failing to comply with new laws will make the struggle to protect civic spaces an even more challenging battle.

This law that was just passed will join the other laws such as the EPOCA, Political Parties Act and Cybercrime Act that have established clear boundaries and leave little room to hold the government accountable and to criticize it. Tope Ogundipe, Director of Programs at Paradigm Initiative continued, “We urge that proactive measures be taken to protect the existence of vibrant civil societies that play a role in creating peaceful and equal societies. We implore the government of Tanzania to ensure the stability and openness of democratic and civic spaces in Tanzania by respecting and protecting the role of civil society as a key player in the promotion of democratic ideals”.

Paradigm Initiative sends FoI Request to NCC on Nigeria’s New Surveillance Provisions

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

Paradigm Initiative has asked the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to provide it with information on its role in Nigeria’s surveillance and interception programmes. Relying on the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the pan-African Digital Rights and Digital Inclusion organization is requesting information on the role the regulatory agency plays in enabling law enforcement in Nigeria to carry out communication surveillance and interception of communications in the discharge of their duties. 

In a copy of the request sent to NCC and seen by this media house, the organization has, among other requests, asked NCC to disclose what measures it has in place to ensure that government does not abuse communication surveillance and interception of communications to target political opponents and critics, among others. It also asked the Commission to disclose the regulatory framework under which communication surveillance and interception of communications is being carried out in Nigeria. 

Speaking on the request, Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager, Digital Rights, Anglophone West Africa at Paradigm Initiative, says “this is not the first time Paradigm Initiative is engaging the Nigerian government on its communications surveillance and interception activities. Our goal remains to ensure that surveillance is accountable and transparent. We are equally excited by the prospects of technology to help law enforcement fight criminality, but we are at the same time wary of how such technology can serve as a tool in the hands of the incumbent to abuse citizens’ right to privacy or spy on the opposition and critics of government’’.

On what triggered this latest request, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe, said, “In a Bill recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Government will henceforth allow foreign governments to spy on and intercept the communications of Nigerian citizens.” The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Law makes provision for Nigeria to assist foreign governments to carry out surveillance and intercept communications of suspects during criminal investigations. “The Nigerian Government can no longer deny it has the capacity to carry out communications surveillance and interception, it would be great to see what safeguards are in place around this, given the dangerous dimensions it can take”, Ogundipe concluded.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has seven days within which it must respond to the request according to the Freedom of Information Law 2011.

Paradigm Initiative urges Ethiopia to Keep the Internet On

By | Press Release

For immediate release, June 24 2019

 

Lagos, Arusha

 

On the 22nd of June 2019, Ethiopia experienced an attempted coup against the administration in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region. The failed coup in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara regional state government led to four people being killed, including Ethiopia’s Army Chief of Staff and regional governor Ambachew Mekonnen. The Prime Minister confirmed this on a press conference on the 23rd June where he urged the nation to unite and assured them that the situation was under control.The shooting in Bahir Dar occurred when the state president was holding a meeting to decide how to stop the recruitment of ethnic Amhara militias by Asamnew. In a video spread on Facebook a week earlier and seen by a Reuters reporter Asamnew had advised the Amhara people to arm themselves in preparation for fighting against other groups.

 

Director of Programs, Paradigm Initiative, Tope Ogundipe stated, ‘’Prior to the attempted coup there was an internet shutdown from 11 June 2019’’. According to NetBlocks on 14 June, 4:00 p.m. UTC the internet was partially restored, however national connectivity was unstable. Network data showed that messaging apps like Telegram remained restricted as of Friday 21 with no explanation as to why. It was also reported that Ethiopia’s internet was largely disconnected from Saturday evening 22 June 2019 during procession of attempted coup. Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern Africa, Rebecca Ryaktimbo, noted ‘’This leaves much to be desired; that there’s possibly more to the shutdown than meets the eye at this precise time in the transformation process of Ethiopia’’.

 

Ethiopia is not new to internet shutdowns it has been common to experience shutdowns during uncertain times and school examination periods. However since the onset of the new administration efforts have been made to reform Ethiopia’s human rights scope. Among the attempts of this current regime is the privatisation of the Telecom industry which is dominated by a state owned Telecom company. Earlier this month, Ethiopia’s parliament approved a draft law that enables foreign companies to invest in the telecommunications industry of Africa’s second-most populous nation.The legislation establishes an independent communications regulator, accountable to the prime minister, that will be responsible for promoting competition.The new law also says that ownership of telecoms companies “shall be open without limitation to private investors including both domestic investors and foreign investors”.

 

Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern Africa, Rebecca Ryakitimbo added, ‘’Now more than ever the government of Ethiopia needs to keep the digital space open, at a time of rebuilding the democratic landscape of the nation’’. This includes freedom of expression and access to information. She continued, ”While governments may think that throttling and keeping a tight leash on the internet may help to control narratives during crisis, this is not the case in fact it does not only damage the economy but further destroys the people’s trust in the system.” The growing ecosystem of technology and innovation in Ethiopia is not the only party to face turbulence when the internet is shutdown more so the end users who are building businesses, relationships and finding their voices and communities of trust online are at the receiving end of the consequences of a shutdown.  

 

For more information on this release please contact

Paradigm Initiative’s media office via media@paradigmhq.org

Paradigm Initiative Condemns Internet Disruption in Liberia

By | Press Release

Abuja, Nigeria

June 7 2019

 

It has come to the knowledge of Paradigm Initiative that popular social media platforms in Liberia such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been blocked and cannot be accessed in Liberia.

Paradigm Initiative expressly condemns this act and declares that it is an affront to the freedom of expression and assembly amidst other civil liberties which belong to the citizens and residents of Liberia.

It is reported that the platforms have been blocked in reaction to the ongoing anti-government protests in the capital, Monrovia. The protests which have been tagged ‘Save The State’, were against the high inflation rates and corruption in the country.

Article 15 of the Liberia Constitution 1986 states that ‘Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression…’ and the act of blocking access to the internet or to social media platforms for whatever reason is a gross violation of citizens’ freedom of expression.

The government of Liberia must be aware of the social, cultural, educative and economic value and relevance of the Internet. Business and human lives thrive not only on communication but on other benefits provided by social media platforms and the internet, and to block access to same is to act tyrant and disregard the liberties of the people. Grave and serious legal and historic impacts will be occasioned as a result of the action of the Liberia government.

With one irrational action, the government of Liberia has successfully abused its citizens and residents of their rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, the right to learn, their right to access the internet and other freedoms and liberties connected to the use of the internet.

We hereby call on the Liberian government to restore access to all disrupted Internet services, and uphold all human rights of its citizens.

For more information on this release, please contact Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer via media@paradigmhq.org

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