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Activists Arrested in Nigeria over Facebook Posts and Protest

By | Uncategorized

Paradigm Initiative is deeply concerned about the arrest and detention of activist Deji Adeyanju and two other Nigerians by the Nigerian Police. This is according to a statement by the digital rights and inclusion group’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.

Mr Adeyanju was reportedly arrested alongside two other activists namely Daniel Abobama and Boma Williams on Wednesday morning while leading a protest against police bias ahead of 2019 general elections.

It is our position that the tenents of democracy entitle each citizen to free speech, freedom of peaceful assembly and of demonstration. Therefore,  Mr Adeyanju is well entitled to his opinion on the bias of the police towards the incumbent president and is in fact, entitled to lead a peaceful protest in this regard.

We are aware that the Police spokesperson Jimoh Moshood has cited Mr Adeyanju’s Facebook posts and the content of the trio’s protest placards as the ground for their arrest as the Police deemed the content “criminally defamatory, and also capable of incitement and breach of public peace.” We, however, do not agree with this position. Controversial or dissenting opinions do not automatically qualify as hate speech or defamation – and free speech and demonstration are the entitlement of every citizen of a democratic state.

Paradigm Initiative, therefore, calls upon the Nigeria Police to withdraw its charge against the activists and cause release as critical speech and protest do not constitute a crime in a democratic country like Nigeria. Instead of arrest and persecution of critics, the Nigeria Police is advised to counter criticism with their own facts and argument rather than resorting to force and abuse of power.

Nigeria Urged To Prioritize Signing the Digital Rights Bill into Law  

By | Uncategorized

Abuja, Nigeria

The digital rights and inclusion group, Paradigm Initiative has expressed concerns over the delay in transmitting the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB490) to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent, urging the legislative and the executive arms to ensure the bill is signed before the 2019 elections. This is according to a statement signed by the organisation’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.

The landmark Bill was initially passed by the Senate in March 2018 after previously passed by the House of Representatives in December 2017. After an eight-month delay, the National Assembly reworked Clause 4 of the Bill after a concern was raised by the Directorate of Legal Services of the National Assembly. The new version of the Bill was passed by the Senate last Tuesday, November 27.

While speaking on the issue, Digital Rights Program Manager for Paradigm Initiative, Adeboye Adegoke spoke about the delay experienced in transmitting the Bill to the President. “Since the first passage of the Bill, we have been following up with the National Assembly on its onward transmission. We sent a freedom of information requests which were not replied and have since been left to wonder why it is taking so long to transmit the Bill to the President for his assent. Now that the Senate has reworked and re-passed the Bill, we hope that the bill will be immediately transmitted to the President.”

Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative ‘Gbenga Sesan, however, provided some succour while speaking on the issue, “We are in constant communication with key stakeholders in the National Assembly and we have been assured that the Bill will soon be forwarded to President Buhari for assent”

“Given the President’s recent spate of refusal to assent to a number of Bills sent by the National Assembly, it is understood that the National Assembly is doing extra work to ensure that the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is not refused assent for technical reasons. A member of the Senate was recently quoted as saying that President Buhari refused his assent to 15 Bills in a single day, and we do not want to see the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill suffer such fate,” says Sesan

Speaking further on the Bill, Adeboye asserted that the Bill is poised to put Nigeria on the global map as a rights-respecting country. “This week, the Government of Germany, which currently chairs the Freedom Online Coalition, hosted the 7th Annual Freedom Online Conference, a multi-stakeholder event with governments, civil society, the private sector, and others – to share relevant information, develop joint strategies and combine efforts towards their mutual goal of a human rights-based Internet. We equally want to see Nigeria join in on these important questions and this can be done by ensuring the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill becomes law and reference legislation for other countries across the globe.”

 

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

 

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.

**

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.

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