Monthly Archives

February 2018

Brenda Okoro’s MobbiCheck Story: Lessons in Digital Innovation and Persistence

By | Coding, DigitalJobs, ICTs

By Babatunde Okunoye

Every story has its beginning and Brenda Okoro’s story must be told from its very beginning. Brenda’s programming passion was born out of deep curiosity for all things technical. While in Secondary School she had a friend who was exposed to computers early so Brenda would usually go to her house and beg to be allowed to play with her personal Computer (to play games of course!). When fancy mobile phones started evolving, Brenda’s Mom bought her an LG flip phone which she used to play games. However, she noticed that every time she launched a game application, an image popped up with the text ‘Java’ so that triggered her to begin researching what Java was all about.

While in secondary school also Brenda studied Computer Science which did not a great impression on her. She, however, learnt how to draw using the paint application at that time. When she completed secondary school, Brenda told her parents of her desire to attend a computer training institute. Luckily they agreed and enrolled her in a 6-months diploma program while she continued seeking admission into a tertiary institution. During the training, Brenda was introduced to QBASIC, her very first programming language. She did well in the training and finished with a distinction and was offered employment in the computer institute.

In 2012, when Brenda gained admission into Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU, #GreatIfe) to study Computer Science & Engineering, she dreamt of making a first class. She also planned to make a meaningful societal impact through the use of information technology. While she did not make the first class, she did succeed on the second objective of acquiring tech skills for social development.

The tech for good journey took one fateful day when a team from Paradigm Initiative landed on the OAU campus. The team was visited Brenda’s department in OAU and students were asked to wait behind after lectures. The Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, Mr. ‘Gbenga Sesan, who spoke to the students, narrated his success story to the students and encouraged them to think outside the box in their pursuit of career success. When Sesan, himself an alumnus of OAU, concluded his speech, his team introduced the student to TENT (Techie Entrepreneurial Nigeria Talented, now TECHTIARY), a new program Paradigm Initiative chose to pioneer in OAU.  The aim of TENT was to encourage university students to build startups/tech products & services of their own so that when they graduate they wouldn’t need to loiter around looking for virtually nonexistent jobs. At the very least TENT would help the students pick up relevant skills. The OAU students were encouraged to come up with ideas which would solve local problems around them. Some 100 students signed up for TENT at OAU that year, and Brenda was one of them.

At the first TENT Gathering (the national annual meeting of students involved in TENT in Nigeria), students were asked to present a tech idea to solve a societal problem. Brenda presented an idea delivering a health solution (later to be called MobbiCheck) which helps citizens locate the nearest health centre and provides critical health information. At the end of the three-day event, the best three ideas were chosen and Brenda’s idea wasn’t among them. Naturally, she felt bad though but was determined to succeed next time and never gave up on her idea. Brenda consulted a senior colleague in Google Developer Group (GDG) OAU on how best to develop her idea for future success. His advice, which was prescient, was for her to pick up a programming language.

Luckily Brenda’s department organized programming tutorials on Java so she borrowed her roommate’s laptop and installed Netbeans (integrated development environment for Java) on it. She attended the Java tutorials but didn’t follow through at all, because initially, everything seemed like Spanish. Then came the long break due to the university strike action so Brenda went home and was finally able to learn the rudiments of Java at the same computer training institute she was enrolled in prior to joining OAU.

Then all of a sudden, with more study and practice, Java started making sense to Brenda but she didn’t have a Personal Computer to practice with so she usually went early to the training institute to do assignments and practice. Then the University strike was called off and Brenda went back to school. It was during this term she was introduced to Python but it was mostly theory. Like most students, Brenda opted for the usual ‘cram and pass’ reading. However, her recent knowledge of Java helped her flow much more easily with the course.

In her second year at OAU, as part of TENT OAU activities ahead of 2013 national TENT Gathering, Brenda was asked to build a prototype of the idea she submitted in the last competition. She again asked a senior colleague the best implementation course for the project and he suggested building the prototype on J2ME (Java 2 Mobile Edition). Brenda travelled all the way back to school, borrowed a computer from a friend and learnt J2ME, implemented the prototype on a Nokia phone and presented it during TENT gathering 2013. At the end of the event when the 3 best prototypes were chosen, Brenda’s project was selected and was chosen to partake in Paradigm Initiative’s TENT Angel Investment Scheme – which is a program of long-term support for technopreneurs, created with the support of Nick Jekogian, a board member of Paradigm Initiative and an entrepreneur based in the United States. This represented a victory and change of fortune for Brenda, whose project now received funding and support from one of the leading organizations working in digital inclusion in Africa.

When school resumed Brenda became a superstar and received a lot of calls from participants, congratulatory messages from her course mates and from her lecturers. She became so popular and got her first laptop as a gift from her Mom. She later joined a research lab (iLAB) to sharpen her skills and find team members because an important expert advice and feedback she obtained during TENT 2013 was to work with a team to improve her project’s chances of success. Later that year the Open Technology Movement (OTM) was organized on OAU campus and there she met her team mates. There the new team extensively discussed Brenda’s TENT project and decided to implement it on the Android platform. They also chose a name for the new app – MobbiCheck. Brenda’s knowledge of Android development was limited at the time so she left the implementation to a member of her team who was an Android developer.

As the head of the team, Brenda’s plan was to implement MobbiCheck on both web and mobile so she had to allocate tasks among her group members. Although this division of labour seemed to work for a while, the team eventually fell apart and Brenda was devastated, torn apart and broken. She didn’t know what to do but somehow found the strength to move on. Fortunately she had a plan B, an emergency team. Essentially this involved calling her friends that were very good developers and together they were able to build something worth presenting within a few hours to 2014 TENT gathering held at Benson Idahosa University Edo state. The TENT gathering was a success that year and there were 11 participants from OAU Ife alone. Against all odds, Brenda’s team had a good outing at the TENT program.

Brenda reorganized her team after settling disputes and misunderstandings.  The team also changed their focus to major on Android development. Luckily, Android Code jams organized by the Google Development Group (GDG) had begun at that time so she used the opportunity to learn Android in-depth. During this process, the project lagged behind as a result of the time spent trying to set up the Android studio. The increasing workload of university 300 level courses at OAU Ife too did not help matters. So Brenda opted for online tutorials to help bridge the time and knowledge gap. The project however suffered as Brenda struggled to balance school work and her entrepreneurship pursuits.

TENT gathering 2015 was once again approaching and Brenda, now in 400 level, was already attached to an organization for SIWES (Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme). During her SIWES she worked as an Android developer and improved her skills in Android but was so tied up with SIWES work that she had little time to focus on her TENT project.

When it was time for final year projects, Brenda chose to work on a home automation project to control appliances using voice activation. Although it was the model for the TENT program, she couldn’t use her TENT project as her final year project because it was purely software and her departmental requirements required her to work on a hardware project as a computer engineer. At this stage she was sufficiently proficient in Android development and so could assist her team in the development. In the meantime, a member of her team graduated and got a job and couldn’t continue so yet there was a critical manpower shortage in her team. There was pressure now to Brenda to give up but she didn’t. She instead went for yet another Tech event – a hackathon organized by Konga and participated with a makeshift team of three for the event. Her team members, on hearing of her Mobbi-check project decided to become her project team members. It was then decided to change the Mobbicheck user interface and add content to it. The team then made considerable progress, and Brenda became more experienced in balancing this project with her school work.

At around this time, Brenda got a scholarship for the Udacity Android development Nanodegree. She was elated and immediately downloaded the videos and got busy with projects. There was also a deadline to launch the app on PlayStore before the end of November 2017 as there was a planned presentation of the finished product in Lagos during Techiary Forum 2017. Just towards the end of October however her Nanodegree training was terminated because she did something against the rules (unintentionally). This new setback devastated Brenda and she became somewhat depressed to the point of deciding not to code again. Nevertheless, somehow she did not give up, in part as a result of encouragement from her sponsor and mentor who encouraged her to keep learning even though she wouldn’t get the certificate from Udacity.

November 2017 is one month Brenda won’t forget in a hurry because she worked round the clock to complete the MobbiCheck app ahead of the deadlines imposed by Playstore and the Techtiary team. As a result of the closeness of the deadlines, Brenda met a friend to help work on an app feature while she focused on other aspects of the project. Together they completed the app and launched it on Playstore. This represented a major breakthrough and milestone for her. In the feeling of elation, joy and fulfillment that followed, Brenda shared the link to the app with a few of her contacts to get feedback for improvement of a better version. All considered, in Brenda’s own reckoning and I’m sure many will agree with her, MobbiCheck is gearing up to be a success story. The MobbiCheck app, which helps Nigerians locate local health care centres closest to them and provides important health information, is a story of a locally developed solution, and how its development is overcoming the odds usually stacked against technopreneurs in Nigeria.

You can check out MobbiCheck on the Google PlayStore via the link:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.insight.mobbicheck&hl=en

 

Lessons learned

  1. Don’t rush into just picking anyone as a team mate. Take your time and choose wisely.
  2. Learn the skill if you must it’s very important.
  3. Try hard not to procrastinate and be determined to finish a course (whatever it is) you started.

 

 

 

Paradigm Initiative Releases 2017 Annual Report

By | Press Release

We are pleased to present our 2017 Annual Report. At the beginning of 2017, Paradigm Initiative’s expansion plan took us back to the drawing board. From the search for team members – with the right mix of relevant expertise, local knowledge and context appreciation – to teaming up with new partners and expanding our existing coalition, we were able to extend our digital rights work into the rest of Anglophone West Africa, East/Southern Africa and Francophone Africa. We also deepened our digital inclusion reach within Nigeria, with the introduction of resident programs in secondary schools and tertiary institutions across the country.2017 Annual Report-17

It was a year that came with opportunities for our digital inclusion program as we expanded our LIFE training program beyond the Aba, Ajegunle and Kano centres and took the program into 5 secondary schools in Abia, Lagos and Kano state. The LIFE@School program graduates can now join their colleagues who benefit from the 10-week digital readiness program to start entrepreneurial activities or get internships/jobs early based on new skills acquired. In 2017, we trained 270 youth at the LIFE centres, 96 at various schools and 332 in digital readiness workshops.

Our Techtiary program also added 5 tertiary institutions while the 2017 Techtiary Forum was attended by students from 27 tertiary institutions from five of Nigeria’s six zones. The 2017 Techtiary Forum brought 170 undergraduates from 27 tertiary institutions across 5 geo-political zones. The One Million Naira Taiwo Bankole Prize was won by Oyinyechi Nmecha with her Extraclass.ng project.

In 2017, the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill was passed by the House of Representatives and while we know that a lot of work must now go towards completing the legislative process and implementing the landmark positive rights legislation, we wish to thank the sponsor, Hon. Chukwuemeka Ujam, for his dedication and sacrifice. To end the year, our bi-lingual (English and French) Digital Rights in Africa report, featuring 21 countries across Central, East, North, Southern and West Africa, was launched on December 19 at the 2017 Internet Governance Forum in Geneva. Our annual Internet Freedom Forum, which held in April 2017, was attended by stakeholders from 33 countries!

You can read more about our efforts at advancing digital rights and digital inclusion in Africa by downloading the Annual Report.

 

Déclaration de Paradigm Initiative sur les fermetures d’Internet en RD Congo

By | ICT Policy

Communiqué de presse : Pour diffusion immédiate

Le gouvernement congolais a annoncé dans un communiqué signé le 22 février 2018 que les services d’Internet seront coupés pour une durée de trois jours sur l’ensemble du territoire national donc le contenu est le suivant. « Le ministère des postes, des Télécommunications et de l’information et de la communication informe tous Congolais que pour des raisons techniques, indépendamment de notre volonté, l’interruption de l’internet sera à surveiller à partir du samedi 24 février à 22 heures et la récupération aura lieu jusqu’à fin du travail qui prendra 3 jours ; nos excuses. »

Cette interruption d’Internet intervient suite à l’appel du Comité Laïc de Coordination (CLC) de la RDC à une vivre journée de mobilisation le dimanche 25 février 2018, ceci après d’autres perturbations enregistrées ces trois derniers mois.

Le 30 décembre 2017 une lettre du ministre des Postes, des Télécommunications et de l’Information a demandé au Directeur Général d’AFRICELL Congo, la suspension totale des fournitures Internet dans le pays, ainsi que les communications par SMS. Cet arrêt de trois jours s’est produit après le début des manifestations de l’opposition.

Le 21 janvier 2018, alors que les dirigeants des églises catholiques ont appelé à des manifestations pacifiques contre les 17 ans du président Joseph Kabila, une nouvelle fermeture a eu lieu avec une durée d’environ 48 heures.

Le blocage des médias sociaux tels que WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube et Skype est une pratique régulière pour entraver la communication entre les populations. La RD Congo compte plus de 83 millions d’habitants avec un taux de pénétration de l’Internet d’environ 15%. Les pertes liées aux coupures d’Internet sont évaluées à environ 2 millions de dollars par jour.

Paradigm Initiative comme par le passé condamne ces fermetures d’Internet volontaires ou involontaires en RD Congo. Les coupures d’Internet de toutes les formes que ce soit sont une violation flagrante des droits numériques et des libertés d’expression garantis par les textes de loi du pays.

Paradigm Initiative exhorte enfin le Gouvernement de la RD Congo à respecter ses obligations internationales en matière de droits de l’homme et de contribuer durablement aux actions de protection des droits numériques à l’approche des élections législatives et présidentielles prévues en 2018.

Paradigm Initiative est également profondément préoccupé par le rapport de la répression meurtrière sur la manifestation hier. Nous appelons le gouvernement à respecter le droit de son peuple à une manifestation pacifique et à cesser cet abus flagrant de son pouvoir

 

Cambridge Analytica: Bringing the Lessons Home

By | ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

By Adeboye Adegoke

It is no longer news that Cambridge Analytica’s transgression is not just about the Donald Trump’s 2016 elections campaign or the role of Russia in the United States’ election. Evidence has now shown that it had its footprints in the very toxic 2015 elections in Nigeria and the very highly contested Kenya elections in 2016. The implication of this must not be lost on us. This is not just about elections, this is not just about the failure of an intermediary to justify the trust of its customers in it but this is also about the significance of data in the 21st century. While there are barely any data protection frameworks across many countries in Africa, the thirst for data harvesting by the government is almost unquenchable. The risk that we face in Africa is not only about what or how private companies handle our data and who they connive with but also how government use data as a tool of control and manipulations of citizens. In Nigeria like many African countries, security agencies have unfettered access to citizens’ data irrespective of whom it was shared with (government or private companies), in a very opaque manner with no system of accountability or judicial oversight in place and the absence of the opportunity to seek redress is like adding insult to injury.

Attitude Must Change

The subject of data protection is never really taken seriously in Africa. The laissez-faire attitudes of not just data custodians but of data owners are very alarming. On a continent with unbridled data harvesting processes completed and ongoing, not many appreciate nor care about what’s been done with those data. A government agency in an African country once sold laptops used for some data harvesting exercise to private individuals without completely erasing the private data mined with the computer. Kenya and Nigeria, the two African countries that we are sure to have the footprint of Cambridge analytical has no data protection Laws. The process to have one has been ongoing for years in both countries. In Nigeria, draft data protection legislation has sat in the country’s National Assembly for 8 years and this is despite the fact that the bill was sponsored by the speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives and the number 4 citizen of the country. One would have thought with the profile, the bill should be making accelerated progress. The closest Nigeria is to a Data protection framework, is the Digital Rights and freedom Bill which has been passed by both houses of Nigeria’s National Assembly and awaiting Presidential assent.

 

Frameworks must be put in Place

In Africa, only about 14 countries have a data protection law according to a report on Data Protection published by Delloite. The report further shows that in the whole of Anglophone West Africa, only Ghana has Data protection frameworks. While Nigeria’s process is ongoing, Liberia has no frameworks at all. Sierra Leone and The Gambia has some level of constitutional coverage which isn’t sufficient given new realities. Central Africa is worse. From the Central Africa Republic to Congo DR and Congo Brazzaville, South Sudan and Cameroon, No frameworks exists! The EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) is widely regarded as the most comprehensive — data protection framework in the world. And Nigeria’s and Kenya’s Data Protection Bill were modelled on the GDPR. The two countries definitely need whatever it takes to complete the ongoing process. This may be a low hanging fruit within an African context while those countries that have not started the process now needs to do so immediately.

Intermediaries need to do better

In the meantime, and while we examine what lessons are there for us in the cambridge analytica whistle blower revelations, we must emphasize the paramount importance of company’s responsibility to protect the data held in trust for their customers. Citizens’ data are openly advertised for political or business patronage in many countries in Africa and not many are worried by this trend. What we are seeing now is how the fundamental choice in elections is shaped by forces outside our territory. How we think we are in charge of our actions but are being just a puppet to data manipulators who shapes our beliefs and choices in ways unknown to many. Many elections have held in Africa in the last 12 months from Rwanda, Kenya, Angola, Liberia and lately Sierra Leone. How much of this have their outcome been manipulated by technology or connivance with a technology company? Lately, blockchain technology was said to have been deployed in the recently held Sierra Leone elections. Although Sierra Leone authorities have denied this but we do know there is no smoke without fire. The question isn’t about whether it is appropriate to embrace the use of technology to make better choices but that of attitude and disposition to same and ensuring this is done right and is not manipulated to the unfair advantage of some. Technology must not be used to manipulate voters’ preference. The role of companies as intermediaries comes with huge responsibilities. African companies must develop and implement internal data protection guidelines and must not be subjected to the Government’s whims and caprices. In most African countries, security agencies have unfettered access to data being held by telcos and have connived with political leadership to infringe on privacy rights of many citizens.

Fire Brigade Approach will not solve the problem

In the wake of the recent revelations, Facebook has suspended the account of Cambridge Analytica and the other companies connected to the scandal, but this is only typical of a fire brigade approach to the issue. It is same way most countries around here react rather than proactively position to avoid breaches by failing to put frameworks in place.

It remained to be seen whether African Government will now take the subject of data privacy more seriously. Now that we know that the eMail account of Nigeria’s President was hacked and his health record retrieved in the wake of the election that brought him to power, he shouldn’t really be needing anyone to convince him on the importance of signing into Law the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill passed by the Nigerian parliament and he should bemounting needed pressure on Nigeria’s parliament to complete the legislative process for the Data protection Bill so he can assert that as well.

 

Adeboye Adegoke leads Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights Advocacy work in Anglophone West Africa. He can be found on Twitter at @adeboyeBGO . 

NTA Social Media Gag Order: Dictatorship in Democracy?  

By | #PINternetFreedom, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

By Adeboye Adegoke and Adeboro Odunlami

On the 15th of January 2018, the management of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which is the official government-owned television station, sent an internal circular to its staff expressly restraining them from relating with online publications which concern sensitive and topical national issues. According to the circular which emanated from the Office of the Executive Director (Administration & Training) the act was described as ‘embarrassing’ and ‘reckless and unethical’.

It is baffling that the NTA would issue this kind of instruction to its staff when Section 6(1) of the NTA Act specifically states that  ‘It shall be the duty of the Authority to provide as a public service in the interest of Nigeria, independent and impartial television broadcasting for general reception within Nigeria.’ (emphasis ours)

The NTA was set up to report and make available to the country, news as it is. It is understood that there is hate speech – that sometimes, information can be couched in a way as to incite violence against groups of people or the government. That, obviously, is forbidden and quite unethical.

It should, however, be pointed out that this is not what is being referred to by the NTA in its circular. The circular makes it abundantly clear that what it forbids is ‘sensitive and topical national issues’. It is highly ridiculous and ironic for a federal news agency to forbid the broadcast of national issues simply because they are ‘sensitive’ or ‘topical’. Where else are the citizens supposed to get non-partisan and unadulterated news on national events but from the National TV?

Perhaps the management of NTA has forgotten that it belongs, not to any political party or to please the government, but to cater to the people. And it is to these same people, the NTA has a responsibility. The truth is, if there are topical, sensitive and even controversial issues going on in Nigeria, they must be reported by NTA. It is not the job of NTA to ensure the ignorance of the Nigerian citizens by deciding what their hearts can take and protecting them from the reality of affairs in Nigeria simply because they are topical and sensitive. The best the NTA can do in reporting sensitive matters is to put in excellent effort in its delivery to contain the reaction of its consumers.

Section 6(2) of the NTA Act provides “The Authority shall ensure that the services which it provides, when considered as a whole, reflect the unity of  Nigeria as a Federation and at the same time give adequate expression to the culture, characteristics and affairs of each State, Zone or other part of the Federation.”

It may be the claim of the management of NTA that the circular was intended to ensure the ‘unity of Nigeria as a Federation’, but a further reading of the same provision would, however, reveal the spirit of this law. It says that ‘at the same time, give ‘adequate expression to… affairs of each State… or other part of the Federation.’

Additionally, the Management of NTA needs to be directed to Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which says, ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference’ (the same is provided in Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which has been adopted in Nigeria)

The circular by NTA is very offensive to different degrees of the freedom of expression and the right to information. This is condemnable to us, and to every Civil right-respecting individual. The management of NTA is called upon to review its instructions bearing in mind its statutory responsibilities to the Nigerian people.

We are not asking the  NTA to do anything outside what it was set up to do. Section 8(1)(c) of its enabling Act states that it is the duty of the Authority to ensure ‘that any news given in the programmes (in whatever form) is presented with accuracy, impartiality and objectivity’. NTA is not to cower or shy from the news but is to give news with accuracy, impartiality and objectivity.

 

Adeboye and Adeboro are digital rights advocates with Paradigm Initiative, the pan-African digital rights group. 

Paradigm Initiative Statement on Press Clampdown in Kenya

By | Uncategorized

Press Release: For Immediate Release

On Tuesday, January 30th 2018, the Communications Authority of Kenya took off air Kenya’s major television stations Citizen TV, NTV, and KTN News to prevent them from airing a mock ‘swearing-in ceremony’ of Mr. Raila Odinga, a Kenyan opposition leader who challenged President Uhuru Kenyatta in a controversial presidential election in 2017. Kenya’s Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i told reporters on 31st January 2018 that the television stations would remain closed pending investigations over their alleged complicity to ‘subvert or overthrow the legally constituted Government of the Republic of Kenya’.

Paradigm Initiative condemns in strongest terms the action taken by Kenyan authorities to shut down the television stations. The action is an affront to the right to freedom of expression and free press as guaranteed by the Kenyan Constitution and various international instruments to which Kenya is a party. The action takes Kenya several steps backwards having previously scored highly by maintaining all the communications channels, including the Internet, during and after the 2017 Presidential Elections.

Paradigm Initiative would like to remind the Government of the Republic of Kenya that it has an obligation to guarantee the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds regardless of frontiers. As emphasized by the UN Human Rights Committee, a free, uncensored and unhindered press or other media is essential in any society to ensure freedom of opinion and expression and the enjoyment of other rights and constitutes one of the cornerstones of a democratic society.

In the discharge of this obligation, the Kenyan Government must ensure that there is free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens, candidates and elected representatives. The media must be free and able to report and comment on public issues without censorship or restraint and to inform public opinion accordingly. Similarly, the general public has a corresponding right to receive media output.

The action to shut down the television stations is an extreme form of censorship by the Kenyan Government on legitimate public and political issues in Kenya at the moment. The media, including the television stations in question, had the rights to broadcast the mock swearing-in ceremony, which according to media reports, was peaceful. Again, keeping the stations closed even after the mock swearing-in ceremony cannot be justified as a reasonable and proportionate limitation of the right to freedom of expression in the circumstances. We, therefore, urge the Kenyan Government to comply with its international human rights obligations and forthwith open the airwaves for the television stations and allow the stations to operate freely without unjustified restraint.

 

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

Paradigm Initiative Statement on the Arrest of Gambian Political Scientist, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay

By | #PINternetFreedom

The pan-African digital rights organisation, Paradigm Initiative has condemned the arrest of Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, a lecturer at the University of The Gambia.  Gambian police detained and questioned Dr. Ismaila Ceesay yesterday, January 31st,  over comments he made in an interview with The Voice newspaper, a local daily. The paper published a story in which Ceesay is quoted as saying “the presence of ECOMOG forces won’t prevent long-term security risks if the president does not win the trust of the army. According to local sources, “The police are saying that such a comment is a threat and should not be mentioned, thus the reason for his arrest.” While Dr Ceesay has now been released after spending a night in detention, we believe it is important for the government to investigate this unfortunate arrest and punish those responsible for the arrest.

According to local sources, “The police are saying that such a comment is a threat and should not be mentioned, thus the reason for his arrest.” While Dr Ceesay has now been released after spending a night in detention, we believe it is important for the government to investigate this unfortunate arrest and punish those responsible for the arrest.

While commenting on the development, Paradigm Initiative Program Manager for Anglophone West Africa, Adeboye Adegoke opined that “This is a very disturbing news from a government whose ascendancy into power is on the basis of campaign and promise freedom of expression. With this development, President Barrow is beginning to exhibit traits of his predecessor, President Jammeh who demonstrated intolerance and hatred for opposing views and dissent leading to many Gambians going on self-exile.”

“ It is important for the Gambian Government to embrace true democratic values such as freedom of expression which allows citizens to freely express their opinion on any issue without fear of arrest. It is only when this has been done that the New Gambia can truly imagine. This development is a sad one as it apparently reversed the gains of the victory won with the elections that ushered in the government of President Barrow” says ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director at Paradigm Initiative.
Speaking on the development,  Modou Joof, a Gambian born Journalist and free expression activist says “His arrest and detention is unacceptable and he must be released immediately. It violates freedom of expression which the new government promised to promote and protect. It could also have a chilling effect on citizens participation in issues of government”

Speaking further Adeboye calls on civil society organizations, the media and the people of The Gambia not to go to sleep but to be on guard to protect the victory won last year through the successful removal of President Jammeh. This he said will be achieved among other measures by working to review and repeal bad laws such as the Public order act and the Amended communications and Informations Act 2013 and any other laws the Government may rely upon to suppress the fundamental rights of Gambian citizens”.

Paradigm Initiative commends the people of The Gambia especially the students and colleagues of Dr Ceesay at the University of The Gambia for standing up to the police and ensuring the release of Dr Ceesay. The vigilance and vibrant activism exercised by Gambians will go a long way in convincing on the police authorities the need to respect citizens’ rights.

 

 

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

Paradigm Initiative Challenges Government’s Surveillance of Social Media

By | Uncategorized

 Lagos, Nigeria

A digital rights group, Paradigm Initiative, has vowed to challenge the Nigerian Government’s latest attempt to curtail free speech online. The organisation made this known in a statement condemning the recent order issued by the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, to security agencies to “tackle the propagation of hate speech through the social media, particularly by some notable Nigerians.”

Mr Ali, who gave the order during a security meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, did not provide any detail as to what constitutes “hate speech” and the criteria that would be employed by the security agencies to determine when free speech becomes “hate speech”. The absence of such details in Mr Ali’s order has become customary with critics of free speech online including President Muhammadu Buhari who once complained about an undefined “red line” online users are wont to cross in their expression online.

It would also be recalled that few months ago, a subordinate of Mr Ali and the Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche, publicly announced to the world that the military now has “strategic media centres that monitor the social media to be able to sieve out and react to all the ones that will be anti-government, be anti-military, (and) be anti-security. We tackle them appropriately with appropriate responses.” The statement lent credence to the reports that security agencies now routinely tap citizens’ phones, especially in the federal capital, Abuja.

The Buhari administration, through its policies and public statements by its functionaries, has successfully created an atmosphere that emboldens security agents from EFCC to DSS and to the Police to make themselves the arbiter of free speech online. In the last one year, at least 14 Nigerians have been arrested and detained for making free speech online.

According to ‘Boye Adegoke, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Manager for Anglophone West Africa, “we are deeply concerned that free speech online continues to suffer sustained attacks from agents of government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. The restriction of access to twenty one news websites including Naij.com is just one of the several attempts by the government to curtail people’s rights online. Therefore, the order by Mr Ali can only further negatively affects the digital space.”

Paradigm Initiative and its partners are currently in court to challenge sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrimes Act that have been repeatedly used to persecute online critics in the last two years. The organisation also sued the Ministry of Science and Technology over its alleged acquisition of spy satellites. In this vein, the organisation has dragged the Nigerian Communications Commission to court over the illegal restriction of access to some news sites. There seems to be no end to the government’s attempt to invade privacy and curtail free speech.

“As Nigeria heads for a general election in 2019, Nigerians must not allow the government to trample on constitutionally guaranteed rights such as free speech. Paradigm Initiative, on its part, will continue to challenge any anti-free speech policy or posturing by the government. Digital rights like privacy and freedom of expression are important features of modern societies and must not be allowed to be abused by people who are afraid of criticism,” Adegoke added.

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For further information on this statement or any other digital rights issue in Africa, please send a mail to media@paradigmhq.org.

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