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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.

I’m headed to AfriSIG 2018 and here’s why…

By | Uncategorized

By Babatunde Okunoye

As a research officer at Paradigm Initiative, my daily work involves a number of interesting tasks. I lead research on Paradigm Initiative’s annual Digital Rights in Africa report, together with a network of researchers within our organisation and across the continent. I also produce policy briefs and blog posts and manage research partnerships with local, regional and international organisations.

As a member of my organisation’s policy advocacy and communications teams, I’m also involved in policy advocacy and communications in defence of digital rights and inclusion across Africa. When internet shutdowns, arrests of citizens for exercising their rights online, digital rights/inclusion limiting policies or any other act or process violating digital rights/inclusion raise their ugly head anywhere in Africa and the world, I participate in teams which conduct advocacy visits and communications campaigns to challenge these actions.

If you’ve also attended Paradigm Initiative’s Internet Freedom Forum (now Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum), then you’ll probably also know I’ve been part of the organising team delivering and managing one of Africa’s most prominent ICT policy events.

Although I have become a relatively experienced professional in the media development sector, I have always had that need to take my knowledge, expertise and experience to another level through interaction with expert faculty and international networking opportunities. So when applications for the 2018 African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) were announced, I didn’t think too long before sending in my application. Thankfully, I received the good news that I was accepted to be a part of the 2018 class.

AfriSIG, organised by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and the African Union Commission, has emerged as the leading platform for developing the next generation of internet governance professionals in Africa. In 2017, AfriSIG was awarded with the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prize for international and regional cooperation.

AfriSIG’s importance can also be measured by the impact its alumni have made on the internet governance field in Africa. Luckily I have encountered a lot of AfriSIG alumni during the course of my work. Here I share my perception of the impact of two AfriSIG alumni, both of the 2016 class. Adeboye Adegoke, then Paradigm Initiative Nigeria’s ICT policy manager for Nigeria, passed through AfriSIG 2016 to emerge to a bigger role as Paradigm Initiative’s (formerly Paradigm Initiative Nigeria) policy manager for Anglophone West Africa. Koliwe Majama, then policy officer at the Media Institute for Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter, transitioned to an impactful career as an independent consultant and as AfriSIG coordinator.

As I pack my bags in October for AfriSIG 2018, I similarly look forward to the wonderful learning and networking experience that AfriSIG presents, and the chance to make a greater impact on internet governance in Africa.

 

Déclaration de Paradigm Initiative sur le respect des droits numériques en période électorale au Cameroun

By | Press Release

Communiqué de presse : Pour diffusion immédiate

Paradigm Initiative interpelle le gouvernement Camerounais à l’approche de l’élection présidentielle du 7 octobre 2018 à respecter l’ensemble des droits numériques des utilisateurs des TIC avant, pendant et après le scrutin.

En 2017, l’Internet a été coupé pendant 93 jours par le gouvernement dans les régions du Nord-ouest et Sud-ouest du Cameroun. Cette situation a entrainé de graves conséquences sur les droits numériques dans le pays.

Paradigm Initiative rappelle au gouvernement que de tels actes violent la Déclaration Universelle des Droits Humains (DUDH), la déclaration sur les libertés de l’Internet et de la déclaration sur gouvernance de l’Internet de l’Union Africaine (UA).

La perturbation des communications et le blocage des médias sociaux tels que WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, et autres ; ainsi que la mauvaise utilisation des données personnelles pourraient sérieusement entacher le processus électorale et l’intégrité du vote.

Comme par le passé, Paradigm Initiative, condamne toutes tentatives de violations des droits numériques ou toutes fermetures d’Internet volontaires ou involontaires au Cameroun en période d’élection.

Paradigm Initiative exhorte enfin le Gouvernement du Cameroun à respecter ses obligations internationales en matière des droits de l’homme afin de contribuer durablement aux actions de protection des droits numériques dans le pays.

 

Shaping Nigeria’s Digital Future through Positive Legislation

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

By ‘Gbenga Sesan and Mark Stephens

Nigeria stands on the cusp of great progress in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector, owing to diverse efforts by mostly youth-led entrepreneurs and collaborations. In recent years, policymakers and economic experts alike have come to appreciate this reality, looking beyond an annual budget built around oil barrels to better measure the country’s diverse economic potential. Startup hubs are sprouting up across the nation; huge investments are being made in capacity building; a critical mass of Nigerians now have access to telecommunications services, and the government is finally exploring the economic potential of the  ICT sector. These indicators position Nigeria as a possible leader of Africa’s emerging digital economy.

Nevertheless, a major obstacle remains. Around the world, the global digital economy is built upon the foundation of strong legal and policy frameworks, often grounded in international human rights law, which protects the actors within it. Individuals and organizations only thrive and invest in the digital sector when there is a legal certainty, regulatory trust, and rule of law that ensures that the rights of users are respected and that the interests of citizens, businesses, and the government in the digital age are protected.

This is not yet the case in Nigeria. Although the country’s constitution mentions certain rights, there are many laws—nominally in place to protect against legitimate concerns over cybercrime and terrorism— that are ripe for manipulation, leading to clampdowns and digital rights violations. Experience shows that the resulting uncertainty, abuses, and lack of trust will hinder innovation and experimentation by entrepreneurs, chill the critical work of journalists and advocates who use the Internet to improve government services and foster accountability and limit investment by technology platforms. The collective pushback against the proposed “Frivolous Petitions Bill” demonstrates Nigerian citizens’ recognition of such risks

But this could change with the stroke of a pen.  The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, which was developed through deliberate, multistakeholder consultations, and has been passed by both houses of Nigeria’s Congress, provides a comprehensive legislative framework that describes and clarifies relevant obligations and responsibilities for human rights online.  Making it law will boost Nigeria’s burgeoning Internet economy, improve governance, and further Nigeria’s position as a regional and global leader in information, communications, and technology issues.

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill addresses a range of critical digital policy issues, such as data in the cloud; surveillance and a lawful interception; data privacy; and freedom of expression online. The bill also provides for the protection of citizens from errant behaviours such as hate speech and misinformation, as defined by a competent court of law. Overall, the bill addresses key challenges, provides regulatory clarity, and safeguards users rights, all while maintaining a preference for “openness”, which the OECD and many others have noted is vital for boosting trade, enabling innovation and entrepreneurship, fostering new, creative and cost-saving business models, and enriching social well-being.

The Bill presents Nigeria with the opportunity to build an effective digital economy with a robust policy framework that protects businesses and secures human rights, complementing ongoing efforts by citizens, civil society, the private sector, government and other actors. The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill will further cement Nigeria’s reputation as a pioneer in progressive, positive legislation in a world where repression, clampdowns, violations and dangerous laws are on the rise.  We urge the national assembly to transmit the bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his presidential assent. We also urge the President to give his assent to the bill immediately it reaches his desk.

‘Gbenga Sesan is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise he founded in 2007 to improve livelihoods of underserved youth through provision of ICT-enabled support system and entrenchment of digital rights. 

Mark Stephens, CBE has served as the Independent Board Chair of Global Network Initiative since 2014. A partner at UK firm Howard Kennedy, Stephens has undertaken some of the most important freedom of expression and privacy cases in the United Kingdom and around the world. 

Paradigm Initiative Statement on the Introduction of Social Media Tax in Benin Republic

By | Press Release

Paradigm Initiative has condemned the decision of the government of Benin Republic to introduce new levies on telecommunications operators with two taxes relating to the use of telecom services by consumers. This condemnation is contained in a statement released by the social enterprise today August 29th.

According to Internet Sans Frontiers, the development arises from Decree No. 2018-341 of July 25, 2018, adopted by the President of the Republic of Benin, President Patrice Talon. The decree creates a contribution of 5% on the amount excluding tax of communications (voice, SMS, Internet) and a fee of 5 FCFA per megabyte consumed by the user of Over The Top services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Viber, Telegram, etc.

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, “we received this news with displeasure and wish to condemn this alarming trend in Africa countries. Earlier this year, the government of Uganda forged a policy which imposes taxation on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Viber to curb what is referred to as ‘Lugambo’ (gossip) by the President.”

“In August 2018, Zambia followed suit by approving a tax on Internet calls in order to protect large telcos, from losing money. In this same month, reports have it that the Government of Benin has also adopted this policy to tax Over-the-Top (OTT) services; producing a similar reason to Zambia.

We are also aware that the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) is currently agitating and putting undue pressure on the Nigerian Telecommunications Commission for the same practice to be adopted in Nigeria. According to ALTON, the activities of the OTT service providers are eating into the revenue telcos used to enjoy,” Ogundipe added.

The statement continued, as an organization working on ICTs for development, Paradigm Initiative is dismayed at this sort of advocacy by the association of licensed telecommunications operators which is entirely focused on gain and which aims to undo all efforts of government and its stakeholders to deepen access to ICTs in Nigeria.

The citizens of many African countries, including some of those currently affected by this policy, are barely able to boast of good connectivity (or any connectivity at all) to the Internet. For instance, the Internet Penetration in the Benin Republic is 33.1%,  in Zambia, it is 41.2%, in Uganda s 42.9%, and in Nigeria is 50.2%. Internet Technology is only just slowly developing in these regions yet the government is already stifling its development.

Rigobert Kenmogne, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Lead in Francophone Africa said, “It is an overstated truth that the growth and development of technology in any country directly affect its overall development. We call on the governments of Benin, Uganda and Zambia to challenge traditional telecoms providers to leverage and improve the use of technology in their business in order to position themselves to compete favourably in the new era of communication via the internet. Competition is only natural and even necessary for economic growth and should not be the reference point for governments to shoot themselves in the leg and stifle development. It is the 21st Century. Any nation desirous of growth and economic continuity must make itself suitable to accommodate innovations.”

Paradigm Initiative calls upon the government of affected countries to review and rule out these policies from its regulatory space.

Doing a cross country road trip

By | Fashion, Uncategorized

Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth.

Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen. She packed her seven versalia, put her initial into the belt and made herself on the way. l using her.Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia.

But nothing the copy said could convince her and so it didn’t take long until a few insidious Copy Writers ambushed her

Robert JohnsonThemeNectar

The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen. She packed her seven versalia, put her initial into the belt and made herself on the way. When she reached the first hills of the Italic Mountains, she had a last view back on the skyline of her hometown Bookmarksgrove, the headline of Alphabet Village and the subline of her own road, the Line Lane. Pityful a rethoric question ran over her cheek, then she continued her way. On her way she met a copy.

Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen. She packed her seven versalia, put her initial into the belt and made herself on the way.

l using her.Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia.

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