Monthly Archives

November 2018

Paradigm Initiative Statement on Digital Rights Violations in Burundi

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

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

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

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

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

African governments using laws to stifle internet freedom – Report

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Many African governments have rolled out legislation and policies which enforce privacy violations, infringements to freedom of expression, access restrictions and hurt other digital rights, the Digital Rights in Africa 2018 report has revealed. The report prepared by Paradigm Initiative was launched at the Internet Governance Forum in Paris on Tuesday, November 13. 

Download the report (in English or French)

The report titled “Legislating Restriction: How African Governments Use Restrictive Laws,” is the third edition of the Digital Rights in Africa report.

According to  ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, “The 2016 and 2017 editions focused on Internet Shutdowns and Citizens fightback against digital rights abuses. The 2018 edition focuses on how governments across Africa have transitioned from solely brutal tactics of arrests, Internet and social media app disruptions, and imprisonment to more refined, subtle and apparently “legal’’ approaches – or those that supposedly respect the “rule of law’’ – in stifling digital rights in Africa.”

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Morocco, Tanzania and beyond, governments have begun to roll out legislation and policies which enforce privacy violations, infringements to freedom of expression, access restrictions and hurt other digital rights.

According to Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs of Paradigm Initiative, “Our 2018 Digital Rights in Africa Report takes a look at this trend across Africa and discusses the way forward for civil society as we continue in the fight for digital rights and freedoms on the continent”.

Download the report (in English or French)

This report highlights 8 countries across North, East, West and Central Africa where critical developments in the legal or policy space have conspired to hurt digital rights. These countries are Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, and Benin. Others are Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 48-page report is published in English and French and is available for free download on the Paradigm Initiative’s website.

The report also bemoans the role certain actions of China, Russia and the United States have impacted on rights in other rights in African countries.

According to the report, “The surprise withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council is another stark symptom of the strange times we are in… Beyond the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United States has lost some of its moral authority as an arbiter and defender of global human rights as a result of happenings within its own borders. These developments have emboldened hitherto repressive, but hesitant, state actors into acts that brazenly attempt to restrict human rights online and offline.”

“The increasing influence of China and Russia in global affairs is definitely changing perceptions about the thresholds of what is acceptable or not in human rights standards. Even more so, it would seem many African countries have begun to borrow a leaf from repressive foreign governments’ playbooks for violating digital rights,” the report continued.

Download the report (in English or French)

The report also laments the slow passage of laws with the potential to uphold digital rights, noting that, “Interestingly, as states across the continent rush towards the passage of legislation which violate digital rights, simultaneously, they have either refused to implement calls for the enactment of legislation which protect digital rights or have introduced delays in the passage of such laws and policies. For instance, there are only 23 countries with data protection legislation in effect on the continent, whereas data protection has become a crucial foundation for life in our digital age and the successful working of the digital economy.”

 

Arbitrary Arrests of Digital Rights Defenders Continue in Uganda

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Online freedom of speech continues to be restricted in Uganda as a human rights activist, Dr Stella Nyanzi was arrested and detained last week in Uganda. She was in custody for more than 48 hours for allegedly insulting the president, Yoweri Museveni and his late mother, Esiteri Kokundeka.

Paradigm Initiative, in a statement released on Thursday, condemned the arrest and asked the government to immediately release Dr Nyanzi.   

Nyanzi was also arrested last year for “abusive” and “demeaning” communication and was charged with two counts, one of Cyber Harassment contrary to Section 24 (1)(2)(a) of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 and Offensive Communication contrary to Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011.

According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern and Southern Africa, “We join Uganda’s civil society groups and Ugandans on Twitter, who are campaigning for her release. It is important to note that this detention by the police went on beyond the mandatory 48 hours as provided for in the Constitution  and is a gross violation of her fundamental human rights.”

Nyanzi was brought before the courts yesterday afternoon, at Buganda Road Court where she was charged with the offences of Cyber Harassment and Offensive Communication. The magistrate also charged her with harassing and attacking the privacy of the president. These charges come under the Computer Misuse Act of 2011. We find the charges unnecessary and an abuse of state power.

The much abused section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 says, “Any person who willfully and repeatedly uses electronic communication to disturb or attempts to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication whether or not a conversation ensues commits a misdemeanour and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-four currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.”

Nyanzi has now been remanded to Luzira prison until Friday when she will again be presented to the court to take a plea. Paradigm Initiative calls on the government of Uganda to drop the charges against Dr Nyanzi, and allow all Ugandans the right to criticise and even offend political office holders without fear.

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

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