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Paradigm Initiative Statement on Digital Rights Violations in Burundi

By | Uncategorized

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

By | Uncategorized

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

By | Uncategorized

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.

Le Collectif tous pour All For Digital Rights Cameroon

By | Advocacy, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

Le Collectif tous pour All For Digital Rights Cameroon a organisé à Yaoundé au Cameroun le 20 octobre 2018, une session d’information sur les droits numériques. Cette session d’information intervient au lendemain de l’élection présidentielle du 7 octobre 2018.

La session de formation a été principalement animé par Rigobert Kenmogne, Google Policy Fellow, par ailleurs point focal de Paradigm Initiative au Cameroun et Afrique francophone. Il a d’abord présenté les activités de Paradigm Initiative au Cameroun ces derniers mois avant d’échanger avec les participants sur les « instruments et les acteurs des droits numériques du pays ». On retient dans sa communication que le Cameroun a connu trois périodes importantes pour son développement numérique, avec des instruments politico juridiques qui interagissent entre cinq parties prenantes à savoir le gouvernement, la société civile, le secteur privé, les communautés techniques et les organisations internationales. A ces parties prenantes s’ajoutent des acteurs multiformes.

L’intérêt de cette session d’information a été aussi celui de présenter le paysage juridique et législatif dans lequel le consommateur Camerounais jouit du service Internet. Une action s’inscrit dans la dynamique d’un plaidoyer devant aboutir à l’adoption d’un texte de lois plus spécifique sur les droits numériques, donc l’usage fait déjà partir du quotidien des Camerounais.

Ce projet fait partie des activités financées par Internews au Cameroun avec le soutien technique de Afroleadership est le résultat des séries formations menées par Paradigm Initiative au Cameroun en 2018. Les acteurs de la société civile actifs sur des questions numériques travaillent aussi pour faire asseoir une coalition capable de répondre aux préoccupations liées aux droits numériques.

Le chef du projet Ernest Yene, a salué la participation des journalistes, des webactivistes et autres utilisateurs des TIC. Une reconnaissance aussi à l’endroits des ONG qui travaillent pour la promotion des droits numériques au Cameroun

Creating Opportunities for Girls in Neglected Communities

By | AbaLIFE, L.I.F.E.

It is common knowledge that the female folk are the most marginalized group, especially in most Sub-Saharan African communities. They are always made to bear the brunt of the adverse economic situation of families. This story is not different for most girls living in underserved communities in the outskirt of the city of Aba, Abia State, Nigeria. The introduction of Paradigm Initiative’s youth capacity development training that offers four prong training program in the areas of LIFE SKILLS, ICT, FINANCIAL READINESS and ENTREPRENEURSHIP have seen girls from these underserved communities taking advantage of the training program to acquire skills that are helping them to access opportunities that otherwise would have eluded them.

ANN OGUDORO is a 22 years old girl who was teaching in a private primary school as an auxiliary teacher where what she is paid at the end of every month barely does anything for her as she spends most of the money on transportation before the end of the month. According to her, the only thing that kept her there was her limitation of being a Senior School Certificate (S.S.C.) holder and she cannot get any better job. Besides, she did not have any extra skill apart from her S.S.C.

When a friend of hers who had earlier passed through the Paradigm Initiative’s training told her about the opportunity, she had to quit the job temporarily to participate and upon completing the training she returned to the school with her newly acquired skills. To deploy her newly acquired website development and management skills, she volunteered to handle the backend of the school website which she did very well to the admiration of the school management. The above led to her being promoted from a classroom teacher to be part of the school website management team with a bigger and better salary than what she previously earned.

On the part of Oluchi Anya, an 18 year old fresh secondary school leaver who was looking for an opportunity to get a job that will help her contribute to her parents’ meager income which wasn’t enough to meet their family needs, all her job hunting efforts never yielded any positive result as all the offices she applied to were looking for people with additional skill to their secondary education and she had none then. She tried looking for where to get computer competence skills and found out that her parents couldn’t afford the cost of the training and this almost pushed her into depression. It was at this point that she heard about our digital skill workshop for girls which we implemented in partnership with INTEL West Africa and signed up for it.

After the workshop, she started practicing what she learned in the workshop at any opportunity she had access to a computer. She also resumed her job hunting afresh, and according to her, she was doing that with confidence based on her newly acquired skills and it didn’t take long before her efforts paid off as she got a job as a clerical assistant in a law firm where the digital skills she acquired has helped her to fit into the job very well.

Paradigm Initiative to host digital rights workshop in Zambia

By | Press Release

Paradigm Initiative will be hosting the Southern African Digital Rights Workshop in Lusaka, Zambia. The interactive workshop will take place over the course of two days from the 18th to 19th of October 2018, introducing participants to the basic concepts of Digital Rights. This is according to a statement signed by the social enterprise’s communications officer, Sodiq Alabi.

According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy for East and Southern Africa, “the purpose of the workshop is to create an empowered Civil Society digital rights community for Southern Africa that is able to  defend and advocate for digital rights in the region, as part of a Pan-African coalition.”

“The media will also be trained to competently report on digital rights issues in the region. The end goal of the workshop is to ensure that legislators, after interacting with trained Civil Society Organizations and media that understand and follow current trends in digital rights they will be able to analyse and articulate digital rights issues in their respective countries thus improving the quality of parliamentary debates on the issues,” Ndungu added.

Representatives from government and law enforcement will gain insights and thus employ them when making policy. They will b able to formulate policy from an informed position.

In attendance will be representatives from Civil Society, Government, Private Sector, Media and Law Enforcement. They will be coming from Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and the host country Zambia.

Speaking on the development, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe, said  “during the workshop and after we will create a Southern African Digital Rights Strategy and come up with ways to empower more individuals in the Digital Rights sphere. This workshop is a significant step towards informing individuals in the Southern African region how they can influence Internet policy and avert further Digital Rights abuses in the region.”

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda

Rwanda Cartoon Ban an affront on free speech and press freedom- Paradigm Initiative

By | Press Release

 

Freedom of Expression is threatened in yet another Eastern African State as the Rwandan government makes the decision to ban cartoons. This decision came as part of the new amendments to The Rwandan Penal code.

In the new penal code cartoons that depict images of politicians in an unflattering manner that would, in turn, humiliate them.

According to this legislation, any person who, verbally, by gestures or threats, in writings or cartoons, humiliates a member of Parliament when exercising his/her mandate, a member of the Cabinet, security officers or any other person in charge of a public service in the performance or in connection with the performance of his/her duties, commits an offence.

Any person convicted of this is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and less than two years and a fine of not less than five hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 500,000) and not more than one million(FRW 1,000,000) Rwandan francs.

Moreover, if the cartoon targets a parliamentarian or top-ranking government official the penalty will be doubled. The law goes further by stating that any person who defames the president could also be jailed between five and seven years and fined 7 million francs. Editing images or statements in bad faith without stating it wasn’t the original version could also draw up to two million francs and a prison sentence of not more than one year.

Civil Society groups in Rwanda have accused the President, Paul Kagame of ruling Rwanda with an iron fist. They have expressed disappointment in him trying to limit the already gravely controlled freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in the East African state. In the recent past have faced intimidation, arbitrary arrests and whimsical jail terms.

According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern and Southern Africa, ” the new ban is another attempt by the Rwandan government to further control the democratic space. Its arbitrariness makes journalism a more dangerous trade in Rwanda while also creating a climate of fear in the country. The ban is an affront on free speech and press freedom and should be condemned by all lovers of freedom.”

“In the trade of journalism, cartoons are by nature humorous… leaders may perceive them negatively or as humiliating even when they’re not,” said the Executive Secretary of The Rwandan Journalists Association, Gonza Muganwa.

We call for the immediate review of this repressive legislation and restoration of the artistic expression to address national ills faced in the country.

Paradigm Initiative Condemns New Internet Tax in Kenya

By | Uncategorized

The Kenyan government has ramped up its attack on internet access as the parliament on Thursday, September 20, approved a measure imposing excise duty on telephone and internet data services.

The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta left Kenyans surprised by recently proposing an increase in Internet Tax through the alteration of the Finance Bill 2018. This Bill was earlier declared illegal by the High Court.

This tax increase comes at a time when subscribers are also paying an increased fee on mobile money transfer services after the government raised excise duty from 10% to 20% in July 2018.

According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern and Southern Africa, “this action comes after a public outcry for a reduction on the tax on petroleum products. The president intimated that revenue had to come from somewhere and the first to suffer are Internet data services.”

The proposal to parliament by the president read, ‘Telephone and internet data services shall be charged excise duty at a rate of fifteen per cent of their excisable value.”

“Due to this approval, excise duty will increase on the telephone, Internet data and mobile phone services. Business will be greatly affected especially small businesses that rely heavily on mobile and Internet money transfer. Other businesses that will suffer by this tax introduction include online businesses such as Vlogging, online writing, e-commerce stores, telemarketing and blogging,” Ndungu added.

What this means is that 100 Kenya shillings worth of airtime that currently attracts 10 Kenya shillings tax will now see the Treasury earn an extra 15 Kenya shillings. This tax is estimated to affect over 44.1 million subscribers, going by the figure on mobile subscribers contained in Communications Authority of Kenya third quarter report  of to March 2018.

“The situation is disappointing since Kenyans are already among the most heavily taxed income earners in the world without any evidence as to how they benefit from these heavy taxes,” Ndungu concluded.

Fellows and Paradigm Initiative Staff at the Orientation Program for 2018 Media Fellows

Experts Call for Improved Coverage of Digital Rights in the Media

By | Press Release

Digital Rights experts have called on media practitioners across Africa to focus media attention on digital rights violations on the continent. The experts made this call while speaking at the induction ceremony for the 2018 Digital Rights and Inclusion Fellows in Lagos at the headquarters of Paradigm Initiative.

Speaking at the induction, Sodiq Alabi, the Communications Officer of Paradigm Initiative, said “Undoubtedly, we are seeing an increase in media coverage of digital rights, both in the legacy media and in the new media. But there is still room for significant improvement in terms of quality of content and the depth of the reporting. It  would be great if major media houses can assign journalists exclusively to digital rights and inclusion issues so that we could have an improvement both in the number of reports and the quality.”

In his address to the media fellows, Paradigm Initiative’s Executive Director ‘Gbenga Sesan reiterated the need for media houses to focus more attention on the issues affecting digital rights. These issues, according to him, included the absence of data privacy laws, persecution of bloggers and online journalists, mass surveillance, internet shutdown and the new taxes on over-the-top services like social media.

Paradigm Initiative is a social enterprise dedicated to deepening digital rights and inclusion in Africa. The group created the media fellowship to strengthen the capacity of African journalists interested in covering digital rights and inclusion. The pioneer fellows are Victor Ekwealor, a Nigerian and the editor of TechPoint, and Emmanuel Agbenonwossi, the Togolese editor of AfroTribune.

The Nigerian surveillance state: Neglected issues around Samuel Ogundipe’s arrest

By | Uncategorized

By Boye Adegoke 

The dust may have settled, the hashtags may have stopped trending, and Samuel Ogundipe may have been granted bail but important issues around his arrest remain. Samuel Ogundipe, Premium Times Journalist, was arrested and detained by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. His offence was his refusal to disclose the source of one of his stories. His bank account was also frozen. While the illegality or otherwise of Ogundipe’s arrest is a matter for the court to determine, there are many other important issues, generated by his arrest, that are not being interrogated. These issues are important and have serious implications for democracy and the application of rule of law in Nigeria in the digital age.

Certain facts about the arrest have since emerged to corroborate what is already suspected as the modus operandi of the Nigerian security agencies. According to a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists CPJ, Ogundipe’s colleague, Musikilu Mojeed was shown a file of information on Ogundipe by the police. The file contained alleged bank account statement and call history as received from Ogundipe’s bankers and telecommunication service provider respectively. Another colleague, Azeezat Adedigba was also quoted in the same report to have said that the police said they got her number from her telecommunication service provider.

These are very serious issues and they bring to fore, important questions surrounding citizens’ private calls and bank records being indiscriminately accessed by law enforcement agents in Nigeria. Without a doubt, it is effective for security agencies to leverage technology in the discharge of their duties, especially during an investigation. It is however important that this process itself be guided by the application of the “rule of law” and best global standards. The issue becomes more worrying, given the poor and abysmal human rights records of Nigerian security agencies.

The Nigerian 1999 Constitution as amended guarantees and protects “the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications.” In addition to this, Telecommunications Companies owe their customers a duty to protect their privacy and the personal information shared with them in trust. It does not seem that intermediaries (Banks and Telecommunications companies in this context) push back against requests by security agencies. It is problematic to grant every request made by law enforcement as that clearly represents a porous system that will be easily abused as is the case in question.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time law enforcement has demonstrated a lack of regard for due process. In December 2016, Ayodele Fayose, Ekiti State Governor and a leading opposition figure accused the Department of State Security Service (DSS) of leaking his telephone conversation with another opposition, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. The DSS never denied this, and never demonstrated justification (if any) for the act. The Nigerian surveillance state historically has poor accountability record as it has no defined frameworks or processes that are known to any Nigerian law. It is very disturbing that law enforcement agents have access to citizens’ private call records and bank transaction details without due process.

In 2013, the Nigeria Communications Commission released a draft guideline for lawful interception of communications and received public input for same. Five years later, that guideline remains what it is “A mere draft.” Also a Bill (Lawful Interception of Information) Bill, 2015 HB 35 introduced in the House of Representatives on the subject has not made much progress since 2015 when it was introduced.

In March 2018, the National Assembly passed the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB490), which it has unfortunately failed to transmit it to the President for assent. The Bill among other things provides legal frameworks that conform to global standards around Interference and surveillance of communication. Clause (5) subclause (3) of the Bill provides that; “There shall be clear procedures by which the private data of individuals, stored by intermediaries, can be accessed.” In addition, Clause (9) subclause (7) of the bill provides that “Government agencies shall obtain a search warrant based on probable cause before it can compel any service provider to disclose a user’s private communications or documents stored online”.

In addition to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, the Data Protection Bill and the Protection of Personal Information Bill provide for the protection of private data. While these two bills are yet to be passed by the National Assembly, the President’s assent to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is key to bringing sanity into the Nigerian surveillance state. Innocent citizens will be assured of legal protection and intermediaries will regain users trust. Seeing how the absence of a digital rights law endangers the privacy of citizens and even press freedom, it is crucial that the leadership of the national assembly immediately transmit the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill to the president for his assent.

Boye Adegoke is the Program Manager, Digital Rights (Anglophone West Africa) at Paradigm Initiative. This article was first published on The Guardian.

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