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Groups Sue Gbenga Olorunpomi and Lauretta Onochie Over “Hate Speech”

By | Press Release, Uncategorized

Two Civil Society organizations, Enough is Enough Nigeria and Paradigm Initiative have instituted a case asking the court to declare comments made by some political aides in Nigeria as Hate speeches.

Relying on documentary evidences gathered from online comments made by the two affected aides, Gbenga Olorunpomi, Aide to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Lauretta Onochie, Aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, the organizations through their lawyer are asking the court to determine if the statements violates sections of Nigeria’s Cybercrime(Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015 .

However, due to the elusiveness of the Defendants and their addresses, the Court favoured that the court processes should be advertised in national dailies. This was subsequently done on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 in two leading National Dailies with national spread

According to Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative, “the two organizations filed the case as a measure to curb the spread of hate speeches in Nigeria, a trend which is mostly associated with the political class. While their principals may not be less guilty of similar accusations, Governors and Presidents are however protected from prosecution by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. It is, however, significant that those political actors with links to power are being challenged for comments made at several times. The usual trend in Nigeria was for the political class to use their position to persecute citizens, journalists, activists and opposition whom they deem too critical of power under the guise of fighting hate speech or fake news.”

“If hate speech is to be curbed in Nigeria, then the prosecution must start from the political class who has always gotten away with inciting statements some of whom have led to crisis and deaths of many in the past.” Says Adeboye

The case is expected to come up for hearing at the Federal High Court Abuja today, Thursday, March 14, 2019.

Mr President, It’s time to sign the Digital Rights Bill

By | Uncategorized

By Sodiq Alabi

 When the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB490) was transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on February 4, many Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. The digital rights advocacy community across the globe was ecstatic, and understandably so. The Bill is the first law dedicated to protecting digital rights and online freedom anywhere in Africa. If signed, the Bill will catapult Nigeria to the comity of nations leading the charge for the protection of digital rights and online freedom. Key amongst its provisions are the provisions on data privacy, free speech, press freedom, lawful interception and surveillance. 

The Bill has had a long journey to getting to the President’s table. First proposed and extensively discussed within the civil society and rights advocacy community during the 2014 Internet Freedom Forum hosted by Paradigm Initiative, it was not until 2016 before the Bill was tabled before the House of Representatives thanks to an exemplary civil society-legislature collaboration. Sponsored by Hon. Chukwuemeka Ujam, the Bill spent almost two years in the House before it was passed in December 2017.

When the Senate concurred with its sister-chamber in March 2018, supporters of the Bill assumed the Bill’s legislative journey had ended. Unfortunately, the Bill remained with the National Assembly for another eight months without its transmission to the president. Apparently, the National Assembly’s legal unit had flagged a problem in one of its clauses, therefore leading to another round of the legislative process. The affected clause was corrected and the revised Bill was passed by both chambers of the National Assembly in November and December 2018. Two months later, on February 4, 2018, the Bill was sent to the president for his assent as required by the constitution.

The constitution also requires the president to assent or decline assent to a bill within thirty days of receiving the bill from the legislature. We are now roughly two weeks from the end of this countdown. While the nation is engulfed in organising federal and state elections, it is crucial that important government business like the signing of a crucial piece of legislation does not suffer as a result. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari and his staffers to find the time, in between preparations for the elections, to study the Bill and have it signed before the deadline. This would be a commendable demonstration of the robustness of our presidential system and its ability to keep the country running even in the face of a crucial election for its leader.

As Paradigm Initiative, the group that leads the advocacy for the passage of the Bill said in a statement, President Buhari has a history of signing forward-looking Bills including the #NotTooYoungToRun and the Disability Bill. The Digital Rights Bill falls into this category of Bills as it provides clear legal backing for online freedom and digital rights in an era when the digital space has become central to life. Paradigm Initiative’s Adeboye Adegoke is therefore right when he said, “If signed, the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill will add to what appears to be a forward-looking disposition of the administration to policymaking. What President Muhammadu Buhari does with the Bill will go a long way to define the administration’s disposition towards technology and its viability in improving the economic base of Nigeria.”

The last few years have seen tens of millions of people connected to the internet in the country. These people conduct business, have a social life, learn and teach via this important tool. They even campaign for political candidates and are campaigning to via the internet. However, despite the deployment of the internet across the country, Nigeria, unfortunately, lacks a comprehensive legal framework that protects human rights online, a situation that makes Nigerians online vulnerable to rights abuse. It is therefore easy to agree with Web Foundation when they declared that, “Nigerians cannot wait any longer for digital rights, freedoms and opportunities. The President’s Assent is urgently needed to secure fundamental rights, to support a stronger digital economy, and to build a more secure internet.”

Digital rights are human rights and by signing the Digital Rights Bill into law, President Muhammadu Buhari would give much-needed protection to these crucial rights. It is time to make history, Mr President.

Sodiq Alabi leads communications at Paradigm Initiative.

Leveraging the Gains of Multi-stakeholder Process to Cybersecurity Policy

By | Uncategorized

By Boye Adegoke

Cybersecurity is a big and important subject all over the world. In Nigeria, the work became cut out as Nigeria grappled with the scourge of Cybercriminals popularly known as Yahoo Yahoo at the turn of the Millennium. While the innovations that gave the world the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple, Huawei and other forms of innovative technology were being celebrated all over the world, Nigeria was grappling with managing its image as it appears many young people in Nigeria have sadly embraced the negative side of technology and are becoming renowned worldwide as cybercriminals. The damage done is yet to be fully salvaged. According to a 2018 Nigeria Cybersecurity Outlook released by Deloitte, “Social engineering attacks conducted via emails, SMS and calls still the number one threat being faced in Nigeria as at today. Also, it is not enough to just know more about   trends or attacks, it is about putting the right measures in place so as to be better prepared to defend against them”

Nigeria has since taken many steps to address the scourge by aligning with other efforts globally such as establishing the Computer Emergency Response Teams known as NG Certs. In February 2015, the Government adopted the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy prepared by the Inter-Ministerial Committee coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser. A few months later, Nigeria passed the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act, 2015 which entered into force on 15th May 2015. The purpose of the Act is also to promote cybersecurity and cybercrime prevention, and it provides for obligations to the private sector. Many stakeholders especially from civil society have criticized this law and are seeking judicial intervention to dislodge some parts of the law which are deemed non-right respecting. Also, there is an ongoing process to repeal and re-enact this law by the Legislative Arm of the Nigerian Government. The ongoing process is also being criticized as non-transparent because many stakeholders feel left out. The need for effective cross-stakeholder collaboration is widely recognized, as required in cybersecurity policy formulation process, with numerous international instruments reinforcing the message.

What’s clear about Nigeria’s approach is that it has been largely driven by concerns around security issues as well as implications for National security and business. Meanwhile, Cybersecurity has relevance to individual users as much as it does for Nations and businesses. This is why greater stakeholder involvement in cybersecurity policy development process is very important. Civil society concerns have usually been around how human rights concerns are often jettisoned or deemed inconsequential in cybersecurity policy development. Internet security threats are complex, and they affect multiple stakeholders, therefore, they require coordinated efforts to be adequately addressed. Constitutionally guaranteed rights must be respected in the cyberspace i.e. the rights that apply offline must also apply online. From an individual perspective, cybersecurity isn’t limited to freedom from cyberattacks but includes the right to privacy, right to freedom expression and protection of personal data; communication etc. this hardly makes it into the country’s cybersecurity agenda. This disregard for human rights may not be unconnected with the gaps that exist in the composition or the stakeholder mapping that currently exists.

The Important role that all stakeholders have to play in ensuring that the governance of cyberspace remains open, inclusive, and sufficiently flexible to adapt itself to changing risks and challenges must be emphasized. Users are increasingly distrustful of the internet, and that poses a challenge to its future. “Users’ trust is at the core Internet-driven business landscape. Immediate steps to enhance users trust must be taken. Governments must ensure that users trust is not broken online by ensuring there’s a transparent and multi-stakeholder approach to the development of cybersecurity policies and strategies. A truly multistakeholder approach to National Cybersecurity Strategy Development is poised to address this gap drawing on real-life examples of good practices in other climes. Governments, including military and intelligence sectors, could benefit from increasing their awareness of the multistakeholder nature of the Internet and the vital importance of cooperation with other stakeholders to address security threats.

In conclusion, we must move away from paying lip-service to the idea of a multistakeholder approach to cybersecurity policy development process. There must be a genuine effort to make the process inclusive to capture different stakeholder group who are affected and can bring invaluable insight to the process.  The more robust the inputs and the process is, the better the outputs. It must be noted however that the multi-Stakeholder approach is not a kill switch that addresses all the problems in a swipe; it is, however, a fundamental approach that is able to give all stakeholders a sense of belonging and gives an opportunity to capture nuances, local context into the process; The approach is widely accepted as the optimal way to make policy decisions for a globally distributed network. The United Nations Internet Governance Forum embraces multistakeholder approach model and the model has also been adopted by a growing number of international organizations. The model will help to create a veritable platform for a multi-stakeholder conversation, knowledge sharing and learning in Nigeria around cybersecurity policy development and implementation.

 

Adeboye Adegoke (@adeboyeBGO) is Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Manager for Anglophone West Africa.

Paradigm Initiative Releases 2018 Annual Report, Demonstrates Impact

By | Digital Rights, Echoes From Life, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protect Press Freedom, Paradigm Initiative Urges Ugandan Government

By | Digital Rights

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

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

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

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

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

internet_shutdown_PINigeria

#KeepItOn : vers une élection sans internet au Sénégal?

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Uncategorized

Par Emmanuel Vitus

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

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

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

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

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

Peine d’emprisonnement

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

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

Article 27, l’épée de Damoclès

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

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

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

Perte évaluée à 3 milliards

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

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

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

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

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

 

Emmanuel Vitus est membre de Google Policy chez Paradigm Initiative.

Digital rights are human rights, even during elections

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Uncategorized

By Babatunde Okunoye

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

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

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

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

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

 

Babatunde Okunoye leads research at Paradigm Initiative. 

 

  

 

On Zimbabwe’s Approval of a Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill

By | Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CSOs, Nigerians Urge President Buhari to Sign Digital Rights Bill

By | Digital Rights, ICT Policy

Abuja, Nigeria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

New Year, New Internet Disruptions

By | Uncategorized
By Bulanda Nkhowani
As the New Year dawned, conveying with it the promise of new things to come, an unprecedented new wave of internet shutdowns and disruptions hit Africa. On the 21st December 2018, the Sudanese government ordered for restricted access to social media sites in an effort to prevent the free flow of information and communication.This was during countrywide protests against soaring food and fuel prices, and human rights abuses that have existed for many years.

This was not the first time that Sudanese faced an internet disruption during a protest, and the impact of this particular shutdown smeared the arrival of a new year.

On 30th December 2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo faced yet another government ordered internet shutdown and disruptions on mobile and fixed line services, hours before the country could head to the polls. The shutdown progressed into a full blackout that lasted several days.

Barely a week later, internet services in Gabon were suspended on 7th January 2019 during an attempted Coup.

Fast forward to 14th January, amid protests against rising fuel and food prices, Zimbabweans woke up to a throttled internet, mostly affecting social media sites, which later led to a complete blackout in the early hours of 15th January.

The unique aspect of this incident was the transparency of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to notify customers of service disruptions.

A leading ISP, Econet Wireless, confirmed the shutdown in a statement and SMS broadcasts, notifying customers of a government written warrant, under section 6 of the Interception of Communications Act, requesting ISPs to suspend all internet services.

A directive that they obliged because it was supposedly within the law and non- compliance would attract a fine or three-year jail term for local management.

Although, many factions have challenged the legality of the written warrant because the Act speaks to the interception of communication services and not to the complete blocking of internet connectivity.

Last year, Paradigm Initiative tracked at least eight countries in Africa that experienced government-ordered internet disruptions.

Thus far, January 2019 has seen three internet access restrictions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Zimbabwe with one forgotten case of Chad, where prolonged internet disruption has been in effect since March 2018.

Consequently, the question that comes to mind is why are we experiencing so many cases of internet disruptions?

A significant aspect to consider is governments will to control public access to information and communication within a country and to the outside world.

A common trend to be noted is that most, if not all documented cases of internet blocks occurred during times of social and civil unrest.

For instance, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the government confirmed that they were enforcing internet and SMS restrictions to prevent misinformation through the circulation of fake election results, which could lead to chaos and protests.

In other nations, social media disruptions have been used as a tool to restrict people’s ability to broadcast human rights abuses to the outside world.

Due to its transboundary nature, the internet and social media alike have empowered citizens as national watchdogs with the capacity to broadcast to a wider audience at a click of a button.

On the other hand, members of the press who largely depend on the internet experience a limited ability to gather information and contact sources, let alone broadcast their stories.

All the above mentioned examples highlight direct violations on individual’s freedom of speech and right to access information online as envisaged in the UN Resolution on the ‘promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet’ and the African Commission’s Resolution on the ‘right to freedom of expression and information on the internet in Africa’.

The blatant attacks on people’s rights to access information and express themselves freely online, particularly during fragile times, clearly demonstrates government’s fear of the role of the internet and social media on people’s ability to mobilise for change.

Aside from social and political impacts, internet and network disruptions pose significant economic losses.

A report by Brookings Institution estimates a global loss of over US$2.4 billion between June 2015 and June 2016. While CIPESA estimates losses of up to US$237 million in Africa since 2015.

If the current wave of shutdowns so early in the year is anything to go by, we can expect a lot more internet disruptions as the year progresses.

This presents an opportunity for a coordinated multi-stakeholder approach towards combating internet blackouts and strengthening existing digital rights advocacy efforts that will yield tangible policy and legislative shifts.

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