Category

Advocacy

Uganda Communications Commission’s New Regulations Encourage Self-Censorship (Open Letter)

By | Advocacy, Internet Freedom

We, the members of the NetRights Coalition, have noted with great concern, the Public Notice issued by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) on  September 7, 2020  “advising all persons currently offering or planning to commence the provision of online data communication and broadcasting services including but not limited to blogs, online televisions, online radios, online newspapers, audio over IP (AoIP), Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), Video on Demand (VoD), Digital Audio radios and televisions, internet/web radio and interview/web television, to obtain authorization from UCC before providing such services to the public.This process of registration has the adverse effect of deterring bloggers from blogging, promoting self censorship and stifling media practitioners who work to exercise their mandate of disseminating information. 

The NetRights Coalition is a network of organizations with a shared  vision of promoting digital rights in Africa. Our concern is premised on that any law requiring a blogger to register for the purpose of regulating bloggers is an attack on freedom of expression and inconsistent with the spirit and provisions of Article 29 of the Constitution of Uganda, 1995, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and and Political Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which guarantee the right to freedom of expression; including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of his choice.

We regret that the notice is an affront to the freedom of the media and the freedom of expression in Uganda both of which form the foundation of a liberal and civilized society. It is our considered view that if the UCC is concerned about the regulation of communication services in Uganda, there are various ways through which the same can be achieved without jeopardizing the rights and freedoms accorded to the people of Uganda by the country’s supreme law – the Constitution.

While we appreciate and recognise the statutory mandate of the Uganda Communications Commission, which among others, entails licensing, regulating and setting standards for the provision of all communication services in Uganda, we are deeply concerned that the Commission has issued such a notice unilaterally and without proper consultations, public participation and involvement of key stakeholders. According to Principle 17(4) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in November 2019, “a multi-stakeholder model of regulation shall be encouraged to develop shared principles, rules, decision-making procedures and programmes to shape the use and evolution of the internet.” 

We join other stakeholders and the people of the Republic of Uganda in condemning this citizen-unfriendly order and hereby urge you to unconditionally withdraw this order and initiate a stakeholder engagement process. Embracing  a multi-stakeholder approach that allows for input from different stakeholders will ensure a policy that while fulfilling stated objectives, also promotes freedom of expression and privacy of vulnerable groups including women, persons with disabilities (PWDs), etc.

Signed By:

  1. African Academic Network on Internet Policy
  2. Paradigm Initiative
  3. Women of Uganda Network
  4. Civil Society Advocacy Network on Climate Change and the Environment Sierra Leone 
  5. 5.Rwanda Youth Clubs for Peace Organization.
  6. ASUTIC Senegal
  7. TechHer
  8. Give1 Project Gambia
  9. Centre for Legal Support, The Gambia
  10. African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Coalition

Appel à co-auteurs

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, Internet Freedom, L.I.F.E.

Un rapport sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique

Contexte

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) est une entreprise sociale qui construit un système de soutien basé sur les TIC et milite pour les droits numériques afin d’améliorer les moyens de subsistance des jeunes mal desservis. À travers ses équipes, partenaires et réseaux à travers le continent africain, PIN surveille l’état des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique et intervient avec des programmes et des actions qui répondent le mieux aux défis. L’écosystème numérique en Afrique est marqué par des violations des droits numériques que PIN a bien identifiées dans ses rapports sur les droits numériques en Afrique et a fait l’objet de délibérations mondiales sur des plateformes régionales et internationales telles que DRIF, le Forum sur la gouvernance de l’internet et RightsCon.

Grâce à la communauté des droits numériques et de l’inclusion, les initiatives de plaidoyer changent le paysage numérique en garantissant que les meilleures pratiques sont adoptées dans les politiques et la législation en Afrique. Des progrès significatifs sont en cours dans certains pays africains pour combler le fossé numérique et méritent d’être reconnus. Dans ce contexte, il est pertinent que le PIN documente les droits numériques et les violations d’inclusion, souligne les jalons et formule des recommandations pour améliorer le paysage numérique en Afrique.

Paradigm Initiative sollicite les services de chercheurs sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique pour être co-auteurs d’un rapport continental annuel sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion. Chaque chercheur retenu fera rapport sur un pays spécifique. Paradigm Initiative versera une allocation de 800 USD au chercheur pour un travail achevé et soumis de manière satisfaisante.

Justification et portée du rapport

PIN cherche à compiler le rapport annuel 2020 qui donne une analyse approfondie de l’état des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique en examinant les violations, les lacunes, en enquêtant sur l’utilisation et l’application des politiques et de la législation, ainsi qu’en formulant des recommandations clés pour faire progresser les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique. Le rapport dégagera également des thèmes clés à débattre lors du prochain DRIF21 et mettra en évidence les domaines d’intervention exceptionnels.

Méthodologie

Le rapport comprendra des rapports spécifiques aux pays bien documentés qui sont référencés et soumis par les auteurs des membres de son équipe et de la communauté des droits numériques et de l’inclusion. L’étude des pays adoptera une approche multiforme, combinant des méthodes empiriques et de recherche documentaire pour évaluer à la fois les aspects quantitatifs et qualitatifs des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique.

Contenu attendu

Les rapports nationaux doivent inclure un contexte et un historique; identifier et discuter des domaines d’évaluation thématiques, se référer à tout cadre juridique, politique et institutionnel du pays et faire des recommandations. Les rapports nationaux peuvent inclure, sans s’y limiter, l’un des domaines d’évaluation thématique suivants;

  • Impact de la réglementation COVID-19 sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion.
  • Jouissance de la liberté d’expression en ligne en 2020
  • Protection des données, confidentialité, identifiants numériques et surveillance
  • Coupures d’Internet
  • Lois sur le discours haineux, la désinformation et la diffamation criminelle
  • L’exclusion numérique en Afrique et son impact sur les droits humains
  • Infrastructure numérique et hiérarchisation des TIC.

Expertise et qualification requises

  • Bonne connaissance du pays sur lequel portera le rapport ;
  • Un diplôme pertinent.
  • Expertise, connaissances et expérience des droits numériques et de l’inclusion.
  • Ligne directrice pour les articles
  • Longueur acceptable du rapport de pays : 1500 mots
  • Anglais ou français.
  • Les auteurs doivent s’assurer que tous les statistiques, faits et données sont correctement référencés.
  • Un seul rapport de pays par chercheur sera accepté.

Les candidats intéressés, veuillez soumettre une réponse accompagnée d’une copie de votre CV et d’un échantillon de travail écrit d’ici le 19 septembre 2020 ici. Les délais complets seront communiqués aux candidats retenus. Les réponses seront communiquées le 1er octobre 2020.

Call for Co-Authors

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, Internet Freedom, L.I.F.E.

A Report on Digital Rights and Inclusion in Africa

Background

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a social enterprise that builds an ICT-enabled support system and advocates for digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for under-served youth. Through its teams, partners and networks across the African continent, PIN monitors the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa and intervenes with programs and actions that best respond to the challenges.  The digital ecosystem in Africa is marked by digital rights violations which PIN has aptly captured in its Digital Rights in Africa reports as well as been subject for global deliberations at regional and international platforms such as DRIF, Internet Governance Forum, and RightsCon.

Through the digital rights and inclusion community, advocacy initiatives are changing the digital landscape ensuring best practices are adopted into policy and legislation in Africa. The meaningful strides being taken in some African countries to bridge the digital divide are worth acknowledging.  With this background, it is pertinent that PIN documents digital rights and inclusion violations, highlights milestones and makes recommendations for improving the digital landscape in Africa.

Paradigm Initiative seeks the services of researchers on digital rights and inclusion from within Africa to be co-authors of an annual continental report on digital rights and inclusion. Each successful researcher will report on a specific country. Paradigm Initiative will pay a stipend of USD $800 to the researcher for work satisfactorily completed and submitted.

Rationale and Scope of the report

PIN seeks to compile the 2020 annual report that gives an in-depth analysis of the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa by examining violations, gaps, investigating the use and application of policy and legislation as well as draw key recommendations for advancing digital rights and inclusion in Africa. The report will also draw key themes for deliberation at the upcoming DRIF21 and highlight outstanding areas for intervention.

Methodology

The report will comprise of well-researched country specific reports which are referenced and submitted by authors from its team members and digital rights and inclusion community. The study of the countries will take a multifaceted approach, combining empirical and desk-research methods to assess both quantitative and qualitative aspects of digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

Expected Content

Country Reports must include a context and background; identify and discuss the thematic assessment areas, refer to any in-country legal, policy and institutional framework and make recommendations. The country reports may include and not limited to any of the following thematic assessment areas;

  • Impact of COVID-19 Regulations on digital rights and inclusion.
  • Enjoyment of Freedom of Expression online in 2020
  • Data Protection, Privacy, Digital IDs and Surveillance
  • Internet Shutdowns
  • Hate Speech, Misinformation and Criminal Defamation Laws
  • Digital exclusion in Africa and its impact on human rights
  • Digital infrastructure and prioritization of ICT.

 Required expertise and qualification

  • Good understanding of the country to be reported on;
  • A relevant degree qualification.
  • Expertise, knowledge, and experience in digital rights and inclusion.

Guideline for Articles

  • Acceptable Length of Country Report: 1500 words
  • English or French.
  • Authors to please ensure that all statistics, facts and data are properly referenced.
  • Only 1 country report per researcher will be accepted.

Interested candidates, kindly submit a response together with a copy of your resume and sample written work by 19 September 2020 here. Full timelines will be communicated to successful candidates. Responses will be communicated on 1 October 2020.

Vacancy: Finance and Assets Manager

By | Advocacy, DigitalJobs, ICTs, L.I.F.E.

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a non-profit social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems for young people, in order to improve their livelihoods. Two of PIN’s programs focus on digital inclusion while the third focuses on digital rights advocacy. Paradigm Initiative’s digital rights advocacy program is focused on the development of public policy for internet freedom in key regions of Africa. Our policy advocacy efforts include media campaigns, coalition building, capacity building, research and report-writing.

Job Summary:

The Finance and Assets Manager will be responsible for the financial health of Paradigm Initiative. One of his/her core functions will be to produce financial reports and develop strategies based on financial research. The successful candidate will guide and support the Leadership Team and Executive Director in making sound business decisions in the long and short term.

The FAM will be responsible for distributing the financial resources of Paradigm Initiative including budget planning and will support the executive management team by offering insights and financial advice that will facilitate sound business decision-making

Reporting To:

Executive Director

Responsibilities:

  • Monitor the day-to-day financial operations within the company, such as payroll, invoicing, and other transactions
  • Oversee financial department employees, including financial assistants and accountants
  • Prepare monthly and annual Management Reports
  • Manage the liquidity of the Organization
  • Contract outside services for tax preparation, auditing, banking, investments, and other financial needs as necessary
  • Track the company’s financial status and performance to identify areas for potential improvement
  • Seek out methods for minimising financial risk to the company
  • Research and analyse financial reports and market trends
  • Provide insightful information and expectations to senior executives to aid in long-term and short-term decision making
  • Review financial data and prepare monthly and annual reports
  • Prepare and present financial reports to board members, stakeholders, executives, and clients in formal meetings
  • Stay up-to-date with technological advances and accounting software to be used for financial purposes
  • Establish and maintain financial policies and procedures for the company
  • Understand and adhere to financial regulations and legislation
  • Prepare financial reports and reconciliations to general ledger data
  • Make timely recommendations for mitigating strategies and risk rating changes
  • Prepare and review timely assets management reports
  • Prepare regular investment reports and risk assessment of investments
  • Manage and maintain all properties and acquisitions
  • Strategize on the best model for managing the organization’s assets and resources
  • Conduct periodic review of all assets and acquisitions
  • Evaluate the value of all properties and suggesting ways for generating revenue
  • Objectively review Paradigm Initiative’s business processes
  • Evaluate the efficacy of risk management procedures that are currently in place
  • Protect against fraud and theft of Paradigm Initiative’s assets

Required Skills and competencies

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills;
  • Excellent organizational skills, follow-through attitude and attention to details;
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills;
  • Good supervisory and leadership skills;
  • Research skills;
  • Critical thinking skills;
  • Innovative and creative abilities;
  • Integrity;
  • Multi-tasking abilities;
  • Honesty;
  • Thorough knowledge of relevant laws on Accounting and Taxation;
  • Knowledge of and experience with various Accounting software such as Quickbooks.

Education and Experience

  • A First Degree in Accounting, Economics or Finance;
  • Must be a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants or the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria;
  • Possession of a second degree will be an added advantage;
  • Must have at least 7 years’ hands-on experience in a Senior Finance role;
  • Hands-on knowledge of relevant accounting and taxation laws.
  • A background in audit would be an added advantage.

Key Performance Indicators

  • Monitoring the day-to-day financial operations within the company, such as payroll, invoicing, and other transactions;
  • Developing, implementing and monitoring Financial strategies and initiatives 
  • Regular development of overall Financial strategies, systems, tactics and procedures aligned with Paradigm Initiative’s Best Place To Work initiative and Strategic Management Plan;
  • Minimizing costs and maximizing profits to promote organizational growth;
  • Performing internal and external auditing functions when required;
  • Procurement of quality assets and items for the organisation at the best price;
  • Tagging of assets at a maximum of 2 days after purchase;
  • Quarterly update of inventory of assets in all PIN’s offices;
  • Annual error-free auditing of the Organization’s finances;
  • Monthly error-free drafting of financial reports;
  • Monthly statutory payments;
  • Maximum of 3 days downtime for any asset.

For the purpose of gender balance, a female candidate will be preferred. 

How to apply

Qualified candidates should send their resume with subject as FINANCE AND ASSETS MANAGER to hr@paradigmhq.org.

The application closes on September 16, 2020, but the position will be filled as soon as we find the right fit. If you think you are the right fit, do not delay in sending in your application. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Salary is N3.5M gross per annum. Other benefits including employer contribution of pension, medical cover, 13th month salary and leave allowance apply.

Droits numériques en Afrique Francophone : les tendances du premier semestre 2020

By | Advocacy, Internet Freedom

La forte apparition du Covid-19 en début d’année 2020 dans le monde a profondément changé le visage des droits numériques en Afrique en général, et dans les pays d’Afrique francophones en particulier. La question sur la protection des données personnelles, le contrôle des citoyens à travers des outils technologiques ultras modernes ou des violations diverses des droits de l’homme en ligne en raison du Covid-19 ont attiré l’attention des organisations de défense des droits numériques, notamment Paradigm Initiative et ses partenaires.

Les gouvernements d’Afrique Francophone ont initié des actions diverses en vue de lutter contre la pandémie en s’appuyant parfois sur l’espace numérique ; ce qui a donné flanc à certaines violations des droits numériques. Des violations enregistrées portent sur les arrestations des journalistes et activistes, des censures des utilisateurs en ligne, le contrôle de certains sites web. Aussi, la montée de la pandémie a accentué dans certains pays les fakes news, la désinformation et l’infodémie autour du Covid-19. 

La crise du Coronavirus a permis de révéler aussi que les gouvernements ont tendance à influencer les droits des utilisateurs en ligne en période de crise. Les périodes électorales enregistrent depuis quelques années de fortes perturbations de l’Internet et des violations diverses des droits numériques. Les gouvernements développent alors régulièrement des astuces pour violer les droits numériques dans les contextes électoraux normaux à des fins de positionnement politiques. 

C’est ainsi que nouveaux mécanismes de violations sont ainsi développés à travers des pratiques de surveillances et de contrôles de masse des populations connectées pour des causes spécifiques. Ces nouvelles approches de violations des droits numériques ont pour objectif de détourner l’attention des organisations de défense des droits et libertés numériques. L’opérationnalisation de ceci se fait avec la mise en place des lois sur la cybersécurité et la cybercriminalité, et dans certains contextes des lois sur le terrorisme. L’actualité sur les droits numériques ces six derniers mois de l’année 2020 dans la région montre les influences réelles. Les actions menées par les organisations de la société civile au niveau local, les organisations internationales sur la question des droits numériques ont été aussi multiformes. 

Le profil des droits numériques en Afrique Francophone depuis le début d’année 2020 a été marqué par deux périodes importantes. Dans les trois premiers mois de l’année, des cas de violations des droits numériques ont été répertoriés dans quelques pays, notamment au Togo pendant les élections du 22 février, en début mars en RDC et en Guinée. Au Benin, le début de l’année a marqué par l’affaire du journaliste Ignace Sossou, arrêté pour ces opinions en ligne. Le contexte des violations durant cette période est profondément marqué par de diverses élections sur cette partie du continent.

Aussi, pendant cette période, plusieurs ruptures du câble sous-marin WACS ont été signalées. Certains gouvernements ont justifié les perturbations d’Internet dans leur pays par cet incident. Dans l’analyse, les diverses coupures ont impacté la situation des droits numériques et la qualité de la fourniture Internet à plusieurs niveaux. Mais, comme d’habitude, des gouvernements en Afrique Francophone sont régulièrement des instigateurs des coupures d’Internet dans leur pays à des fins politiques, et surtout lors des échéances électorales.

Dans seconde période du trimestre, entre mars et juin 2020, les droits numériques ont été impactés avec l’apparition des premiers cas du Coronavirus dans la zone. La figure des droits numériques a été profondément modifiée en cette période, du fait des exigences en matière de gestion de crise sanitaire par les Etats. Aussi dans ce contexte, certains gouvernements ont montré bonne figure dans l’amélioration des droits numériques par une couverture adéquate du réseau et en limitant les fractures diverses de l’Internet comme en Algérie et au Rwanda pour ne citer que ces exemples.

De l’autre côté, la période de la crise a permis à d’autres gouvernements à travers diverses structures dans le domaine des télécoms de faire des ingérences dans les données personnelles, le contrôle des utilisateurs ou de certains malades du Covid-19 à l’aide des outils technologiques sans leur avis. La période de la crise est aussi marquée par la montée des lois et des prises de décision gouvernementale sur les fakes news et la montée de la désinformation, comme observée au Maroc et au Cameroun. Pour le cas du Niger, la loi sur l’interception des communications a été adoptée sans l’aval des députés de l’opposition pour son caractère liberticide.

En outre, le premier semestre de l’année 2020 a permis d’enregistrer une victoire importante dans le domaine des droits numériques. En effet en juin 2020, le tribunal sous-régional de la CEDEO basé au Nigéria a jugé les restrictions d’accès à Internet au Togo du 5 au 10 septembre et de nouveau du 19 au 21 septembre 2017, illégales. Le tribunal a statué que ces restrictions portaient atteinte au droit à la liberté d’expression et d’opinion, un champ clé aux droits numériques. Cette décision historique a permis de comprendre le travail de plaidoyer des organisations de la défense des droits numériques comme Paradigm Initiative, Access Now et autres… aux côtés des organisations locales en cas de violation des droits numériques de quelques formes que ce soient. 

Bien que les gouvernements et parfois les fournisseurs d’accès Internet utilisent de nouveaux mécanismes de violations des droits numériques, des organisations de défenses restent constantes face aux violations à travers diverses actions de plaidoyers, de campagnes et de dénonciation engagées au niveau local et international. 

L’auteur de cet article Rigobert Kenmogne est le responsable du programme “droits numériques” en Afrique Francophone 

Tanzania Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill takes shape

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Internet Freedom, Press Release

Digital rights social enterprise, Paradigm Initiative, has concluded a two-day coalition workshop that brought together civil society groups, lawyers, bloggers, journalists, members of the academia in the United Republic of Tanzania. The two-day event took place at Holiday Inn in Dar es Salaam with the Tanzania participants coming together to discuss the state of digital rights in Tanzania with support from Paradigm Initiative that joined the meeting virtually. The workshop culminated in the drafting of a Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, 2020 for Tanzania. It is hoped that this Bill, inspired by Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill, will be embraced by the Tanzanian parliament and regulatory authorities after the elections in 2020 and subsequently enacted into law.

It is noteworthy that the Bill presents liberal and progressive proposals which, if enacted into law, will definitely safeguard the digital rights and freedoms of all Tanzanians. The Bill seeks to fill the lacuna that exists in the current legal and institutional framework for digital rights protection in Tanzania and to offer more robust protection. Undoubtedly, it will not only be an auxiliary legislation to the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) and the Cyber-Crimes Act but also reinforce the existing internet-use regulations.

Paradigm Initiative Senior Program Manager, Adeboye Adegoke says the organisation hopes to keep the discussion going especially with other relevant stakeholders from Tanzania and with the Tanzanian government agencies such as the TCRA. “ The next step in the process is the sustained engagement of all relevant stakeholders in Tanzania, including the government to ensure that the bill that will be presented to the parliament represents the views of the people of Tanzanians”, Adeboye concluded.

Malawi decides: Assessing the risk of an internet shutdown

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

On Tuesday 23rd June 2020 Malawi went to the polls in a historic presidential re-run. The southern African nation shocked the continent and set precedence when the constitutional court overturned the May 2019 general election outcome and ordered a rerun due to apparent widespread vote-rigging.

On May 21st, 2019, Malawians went to cast their ballots, with the hope of a free and fair election devoid of all forms of violence and election malpractice. Almost ten candidates including the sitting president Peter Mutharika, who was standing for his second and final term, heavily contested the election.

While ballots were cast in a peaceful and uneventful manner, the aftermath of the elections left a mark for the people of Malawi. Three days into the voter counting, the opposition reported over 147 cases of ballot irregularities to the Malawi Electoral Commission and result sheets were found to have been tampered with, with some sections blotted out and altered with a correction fluid popularly known as Tippex.

News of the irregularities sparked protests in some opposition strongholds, however, the court lifted the injunction and the electoral commission confirmed President Mutharika’s narrow victory.

With 39% % of the votes in his favour, incumbent President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progress Party was declared the winner, beating his close opponents Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party and Saulos Chilima of United Transformation Movement who won 35% and 20% of the votes respectively. As of 2019, Malawi utilised the winner takes all system. President Mutharika refused to ratify the electoral reforms passed by Parliament, which would allow the majority vote to win (50% plus 1 system).

Meanwhile, the opposition runner up Lazarus Chakwera maintained that his party would not accept the fraudulent election outcome and subsequently petitioned the Constitutional Court. In 2019, Malawi was marred with unprecedented protest action by citizens, ranging from small and spontaneous unrests to large and organised demonstrations. Between May 2019 and July 2019, several protesters were killed and millions of dollars’ worth of property damage. The demonstrators demanded that President Peter Mutharika concedes defeat and the Electoral Commissions head, Jane Ansah, resigns for allegedly presiding over a ‘rigged poll.’

In February 2020, the Constitutional Court of Malawi finally delivered the landmark verdict by declaring the results of the election null, adding that they had not met the standards of a free and fair election, and called for fresh elections within 150 days, a move that was welcomed by many Malawians. The electoral commission was also charged with failing to uphold its constitutional responsibilities. The verdict, which was later validated by the Supreme Court, illustrated the growing independence of the Judiciary in Malawi.

Although an election postponement was looming, Malawians were bent on voting on June 23, 2020, regardless of the COVID 19 virus and rumours of delayed ballot papers that threatened to have the election date shifted even further. Some CSO groups and opposition party representatives went as far as monitoring the plane in real-time that was transporting the ballot papers to Lilongwe. In addition, the group gathered at the airport to monitor the arrival of the ballot papers.

While Malawi may have fared well in setting democratic precedence, the country reported declining respect for digital rights in 2019. The May 2019 elections saw a series of warning statements issued by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), aimed at internet users over the use of online and social media tools during the election period. A partial internet shutdown was also recorded shortly after the polls closed, the disruption lasted several hours on the evening of May 21st, 2019.

Such deciding moments provide a perfect cover for digital right violations to occur, perpetrated by those seeking to silence loud and dissenting voices online. Paradigm Initiative continues to monitor the situation in Malawi for any digital rights implications that may arise during the 2020 election rerun.

Digital Rights: How Francophone Africa is bracing for COVID-19’s impact?

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

The entire world has recorded more than 5.3 million confirmed cases of Covid-19; 2.12 million cases cured and 342 thousand deaths as of May 22, 2020. Francophone Africa countries are also affected in large numbers by the pandemic. In May 2020, this part of the continent experienced a growth in cases of infected people with an increase in the number of deaths, despite the preventive measures initiated by various countries. 

At the start of the pandemic in Africa, in February 2020, measures to fight against Covid-19 displayed a real indirect strategy of digital rights violations by certain governments. However, in certain countries, measures contributing to the desire to improve the conditions of use of digital, necessary for the respect of digital rights have been observed.

The context of digital rights in Francophone Africa is particular even in times of crisis. Cases of violation of digital rights during electoral periods or post-electoral crises are a reminder of the behavior of governments in the management of digital rights in crisis times. The Covid-19 period is therefore not clearly different. Several governments have displayed a face of non-respect of digital rights, but also of the desire to exploit the digital divide for socio-political purposes. Other countries having become aware of the consequences of non-compliance with digital rights, have expressed some progress, notably Gabon,Togo and the DRC, amongst others

In general, the appearance of Covid-19 has urged governments to take a series of  measures against the pandemic with human rights impacts in some cases. The standard of living in the region does not allow populations in confinement and is almost inactive to benefit from quality of digital services.

From Cameroon to Rwanda, or from Morocco to Burundi, certain governments with the assistance of mobile telephone operators have reduced the prices of Internet, and strengthened the stability and confidence of the network.

Cases of human rights violations on the Internet are reflected in some countries by cases of indirect arrests of people, mass control and surveillance of populations, fragmented management of personal data, instability of the Internet and the poor quality of the internet connection with some operators was recorded at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, notably in Cameroon, Algeria and Morocco amongst others

Mixed situation in Cameroon

At the start of the crisis, the mobile operators: Camtel, Orange and MTN have announced support measures during the confinement period. Camtel, a public telecommunications company, has made an attractive offer, but not free, for Internet connection prices for 150 GB at around 20 USD per month. Operators Mtn and Orange have meanwhile lowered the prices of mobile financial transactions.

On the other hand, the Covid-19 period was impacted by the rise of fake news on the Covid-19 and on the country’s political situation in social media, prompting the authorities to initiate actions against some internet users. In April 2020, a letter from the office of the President of the Republic gave instructions to the Director of the National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ANTIC) in order to track all the accounts spreading false information and fake news on platforms like Facebook by using technological means

Also in the context of actions to fight against the pandemic, the opposition political party, Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) through its President, Maurice Kamto had initiated fundraising actions to support some needy Cameroonians affected by the crisis. The Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, had considered this action illegal by sending correspondence to the Directors General of MTN and Orange requesting the closure of the Mobile Money and Orange Money accounts intended for this fundraising effort. The organizers of this operation considered the disruption of their accounts as a manifest violation of their rights related to digital online payment services.

Covid-19 and management of personal data

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In February and March, especially in Cameroon and other countries in the region, passengers from foreign countries suspected of carrying the virus saw their data and identities on the internet, but also on social media. Several cases of deaths have been identified as carriers of Covid-19 before being sometimes denied by the family or relatives. During this period of crisis, the families and relatives of Covid-19 patients fear the disclosure of their status on social media, which can accentuate the stigma.

The use of personal data is considered by certain countries in the world as an effective means of combating Covid-19. This opportunity for Africa could cause more problems than solutions in a context where few countries have a law on the protection of personal data. Rasha Abdul Rahim, Deputy Director of Amnesty Tech, on this trend in the use of personal data says that ” Technology can play an important role in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, however, this does not give for as much carte blanche to governments to extend digital surveillance. Recent history shows us that governments are reluctant to give up temporary surveillance powers, and we must not allow ourselves to be dragged into a state of permanent widespread surveillance . ”

Morocco: arrests for fake news

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In early March 2020, the video of two Moroccans who were shooting hoaxes in the street by announcing to people that they had been contaminated abroad by Covid-19 “to see their reactions” were arrested in Marrakech. The police authorities had already announced in the same period the arrest of a resident of Tetouan (north) who had announced in a video on social media to “register dead people linked to the virus”. On Thursday March 19, a bill n° 22.20 relating to the use of social networks and similar channels in the country was adopted and presented by the Minister of Justice, and was not long in being applied in Morocco. The government in several press releases had reported that “All legal provisions will be taken (…) to identify the persons involved in the publication of these allegations and lies”.

Algeria: an example?

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Algeria is considered to be one of the countries that provided a rapid and positive response during the Covid-19 period for the development of digital infrastructure in the country and the improvement of online confidence. During the Council of Ministers on March 22, 2020, Algeria made the decision to accelerate its digital transformation through the “Digital Transition Initiative”. Tunisian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said the current situation is “also an opportunity for us to realize the vulnerability of our national economy, due to our neglect for decades to free it from oil rent”.

The Algerian Modernization Initiative applies on several levels: the protection of personal data based on Law No. 18-07 of June 10, 2018, the digitization of the central administration, documents and administrative forms, the generalization of databases based on the national identification number (NIN), the creation of a control panel for decision-making and monitoring of government projects. The Initiative also includes the modernization of the government’s Internet network to ensure liaison between the departments. The project also offers several practical measures, including a digital service platform for citizens.

Covid-19 and e-learning

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According to UNESCO, the digital divide  is particularly marked in low-income countries: in sub-Saharan Africa, over 89% of learners do not have access to home computers and 82% do not have access to the Internet. About 56 million learners live in places not served by mobile networks, almost half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Online training for learners in confinement in the Francophone part of Africa is a constraint which presents the reality of the disparity in the development of telecommunications infrastructures and therefore of violation of the digital rights of various Africans, unable to benefit from the digital online training services. The lack of quality infrastructure during the Covid-19 era is one aspect that accentuates disparity, the digital divide and violations of digital rights. 

Countries like Rwanda, Egypt and many others who have invested seriously in digitalization over the years, today serve as examples in terms of the fruits they derive from digital in these hours of global health crisis. For the moment, the practices which contribute to the respect of digital rights from the particular case to the general is important. 

The author of this article, Rigobert Kenmogne is Paradigm Initiative Digital rights program officer  in Francophone Africa

Impact du Covid-19 sur les droits numériques en Afrique Francophone

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

Le monde d’entier a enregistré plus de 5,3 millions de cas confirmés du coronavirus (Covid-19) avec 2,12 millions de cas guéris et 342 000 décès au 24 mai 2020. Les pays d’Afrique sont aussi touchés par la pandémie sur le continent africain. Au mois de mai 2020, cette partie du continent a connu une croissance des cas de personnes contaminées avec une augmentation du nombre de morts, malgré les mesures barrières initiées par différents pays. La particularité de la crise sanitaire dans cette région du continent ayant enregistré diverses violations des droits l’homme en ligne ces dernières années est remarquable.

Au début de la pandémie en Afrique, en février 2020, des mesures de lutte contre le Covid-19 ont affiché une réelle stratégie indirecte de violation des droits numériques par certains gouvernements. Néanmoins dans certains pays, des mesures contribuant à la volonté d’améliorer les conditions d’utilisation du numérique, nécessaires pour le respect des droits numériques ont été observées.

Le contexte des droits numériques en Afrique francophone est particulier même en temps de crise. Les cas de violation des droits numériques lors des périodes électorales ou des crises post-électorales rappellent le comportement des gouvernants dans la gestion des droits numériques en période de crise. La période du Covid-19 n’est donc pas manifestement différente. Plusieurs gouvernements ont affiché un visage de non-respect des droits numériques, mais aussi de la volonté d’instrumentalisation de la fracture numérique à des fins socio-politiques. D’autres pays ayant pris conscience des conséquences du non-respect des droits numériques, ont exprimé quelques avancées, notamment le Gabon, l’Algérie, le Togo, la RDC…

De manière générale, l’apparition du Covid-19 a poussé les gouvernements à prendre un ensemble de mesures barrières contre la pandémie avec des impacts les droits humains dans certains cas. Le niveau de vie dans la région ne permet pas aux populations en confinement et presque inactives de bénéficier des services digitaux de qualité.

Du Cameroun au Rwanda, ou du Maroc au Burundi, certains gouvernements avec le concours des opérateurs de téléphonie mobile ont allégé la connexion du réseau Internet par la réduction des prix de connexion, en renforçant la stabilité et la confiance du réseau.

Des cas de figure de violations des droits humains sur Internet se traduisent dans certains pays par des cas d’arrestations indirectes des personnes, le contrôle de masse et la surveillance des populations, la gestion parcellaire des données personnelles, l’instabilité du réseau Internet et la mauvaise qualité de la connexion Internet chez certains opérateurs ont été enregistrées au début de la pandémie du Covid-19 notamment au Cameroun, en Algérie, au Maroc…

Situation mitigée au Cameroun

Face au Covid-19, le Nigeria reste l'un des pays les mieux ...Au début de la crise, les opérateurs de téléphonie mobile : Camtel, Orange et MTN ont annoncé des mesures d’accompagnement en période de confinement. La Camtel, entreprise publique de télécommunication, a fait une offre alléchante, mais pas gratuite pour les prix de connexion Internet pour 150 Go à environ 20 USD le mois. Les opérateurs Mtn et Orange ont quant à eux, ont baissé les prix des transactions financières mobiles.

De l’autre côté, la période du Covid-19 a été impactée par la montée des fake news sur le Covid-19 et sur la situation politique du pays dans les réseaux sociaux, poussant les autorités à initier des actions contre certains utilisateurs Internet. Au mois d’avril 2020, un courrier du cabinet du Président de la République donnait des instructions au Directeur de l’Agence Nationale des Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (ANTIC) afin de traquer par des moyens technologiques tous les comptes qui diffusent les fausses informations et fake news sur les plateformes comme Facebook.

Aussi dans le cadre des actions de luttes contre la pandémie, le parti politique de l’opposition, Mouvement pour la Renaissance du Cameroun (MRC) à travers son président, Maurice Kamto avait initié des actions de collecte de fonds afin soutenir les nécessiteux en période de crise. Le ministre de l’Administration Territoriale, Paul Atanga Nji, avait considéré cette action comme illégale en adressant des correspondances aux Directeurs généraux de MTN et Orange demandant la fermeture des comptes Mobile Money et Orange Money destinés aux collectes des fonds. Les organisateurs de cette opération de collecte ont considéré la suspension de leurs comptes comme une violation manifeste de leurs droits liés aux services digitaux de paiement en ligne.

Covid-19 et gestion des données personnelles


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Au début de la crise sanitaire, et notamment au Cameroun et dans d’autres pays de la région, les passagers venus des pays étrangers et soupçonnés d’être porteurs du virus ont vu leurs données et identités sur Internet, mais aussi sur les réseaux sociaux. Plusieurs cas de morts ont été identifiés comme porteurs de Covid-19 avant d’être parfois démentis par la famille ou les proches. Durant cette période de crise, les familles et les proches des malades du Covid-19 craignent la divulgation de leur statut sur les réseaux sociaux, ce qui peut accentuer la stigmatisation.

L’utilisation des données personnelles est considérée par certains pays dans le monde comme un moyen efficace de lutter contre le Covid-19. Cette opportunité pour l’Afrique pourrait causer plus de problèmes que de solutions dans un contexte où peu de pays ont une loi sur la protection des données personnelles. Rasha Abdul Rahim, directrice adjointe d’Amnesty Tech, sur cette tendance de l’utilisation des données personnelles déclare que « la technologie peut jouer un rôle important dans le combat mondial contre la pandémie de Covid-19, cependant, cela ne donne pas pour autant carte blanche aux gouvernements pour étendre la surveillance numérique. L’histoire récente nous montre que les gouvernements sont réticents à renoncer aux pouvoirs de surveillance temporaires, et nous ne devons pas nous laisser entraîner sans réagir dans un état de surveillance généralisée permanent ».

Maroc : les arrestations pour fake news

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En début du mois de mars 2020, deux Marocains qui tournaient des vidéos canulars dans la rue en annonçant à des passants avoir été contaminés à l’étranger par le Covid-19 « pour voir leurs réactions » ont été arrêtées à Marrakech. La direction de la police avait déjà annoncé dans la même période l’interpellation d’un habitant de Tetouan (nord) qui avait annoncé dans une vidéo avoir « enregistrer des personnes mortes liées au virus ». Le jeudi 19 mars, un projet de loi n° 22.20 relatif à l’utilisation des réseaux sociaux et canaux similaires dans le pays a été adopté et présenté par le ministre de la Justice, et n’a pas tardé pour être appliqué au Maroc. Le gouvernement dans plusieurs communiqués avait signalé que « toutes les dispositions légales seraient prises (…) en vue d’identifier les personnes impliquées dans la publication de ces allégations et mensonges ».

Algérie : un cas d’exemple ?

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L’Algérie est considérée comme l’un des pays ayant apporté une réponse rapide et positive en période du Covid-19 pour le développement des infrastructures du numérique dans le pays et l’amélioration de la confiance en ligne. Lors du Conseil des ministres du 22 mars 2020, l’Algérie a pris la décision, d’accélérer sa transformation numérique à travers « l’Initiative de transition numérique ». Le président tunisien, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a indiqué que la situation actuelle est « également une occasion pour nous de prendre conscience de la vulnérabilité de notre économie nationale, en raison de notre négligence pendant des décennies à la libérer de la rente pétrolière ».

L’Initiative de la modernisation algérienne s’applique à plusieurs niveaux : la protection des données à caractère personnel basée sur la loi n° 18-07 du 10 juin 2018, la numérisation de l’administration centrale, des documents et des formulaires administratifs, la généralisation des bases de données sur la base du numéro d’identification national (NIN), la création d’un tableau de commande pour la prise de décisions et le suivi des projets gouvernementaux. L’Initiative intègre aussi la modernisation du réseau Internet gouvernemental pour assurer la liaison entre les ministères. Le projet propose également plusieurs mesures pratiques, dont une plateforme de services numériques pour les citoyens.

Covid-19 et e-learning

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Selon l’UNESCO, les disparités sont particulièrement marquées dans les pays à faible revenu : en Afrique subsaharienne, plus 89 % des apprenants n’ont pas accès aux ordinateurs familiaux et 82 % n’ont pas accès à l’Internet. Environ 56 millions d’apprenants vivent en des lieux non desservis par les réseaux mobiles, dont près de la moitié en Afrique subsaharienne. Les formations en ligne pour les apprenants en confinement dans la partie francophone d’Afrique est une contrainte qui présente le visage de la disparité dans le développement des infrastructures de télécommunications et donc de violation des droits numériques de divers plusieurs Africains, incapables de bénéficier des services digitaux de formation en ligne. Le manque d’infrastructure de qualité en période de Covid-19 est un aspect qui accentue la disparité, la fracture numérique et les violations des droits numériques.

Des pays comme le Rwanda, l’Égypte et bien d’autres qui ont investi sérieusement dans la numérisation au fil des années, servent aujourd’hui d’exemples au regard des fruits qu’ils tirent du numérique en ces heures de crise sanitaire mondiale. Il reste pour le moment de s’accentuant les pratiques qui concourent au respect des droits numériques du cas particulier au général.

L’auteur de cet article, Rigobert Kenmogne est responsable droits numériques en Afrique Francophone pour Paradigm Initiative

 

 

Why We Have Not Given Up on Processes: Making FOI Requests in Nigeria

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

In the Civil Society space, it is almost trite to state that ‘Freedom of Information’ is an essential freedom. We advocate for the passage of laws that uphold this Freedom and after they are enacted we advocate for systems to ensure they are enforced. 

In Nigeria, the first phase of this advocacy journey was completed in 2011 when the President signed the Freedom of Information Bill into Law. It took years but we were grateful for its enactment.  We have also followed the journey of the Right to Information Bill in Ghana which was assented to by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on May 21 2019. 

While we celebrate the passage and assent of these laws, we are however expending time and resources focusing on putting the law to use. The thinking is that if a Freedom exists then we should be able to exercise it and if we can’t then we need to find out why. 

If you ever sent a Freedom of Information request to a public institution in Nigeria, the chances that you got a response to your request are dangerously low. Somehow it would seem that the freedom to access information exists only as a concept with no corresponding obligation on those who hold the information (to supply it). 

But indeed such obligation clearly exists in the very law that vests and affirms the right. As an Organization, we have sent a wide range of FOIs touching on our thematic focus and have had a range of experiences from multiple requests and from one Public Institution to another . However, despite disappointing realities such as the total ignoring of our requests sometimes, we still believe in the processes set down in the law and are always willing to  legally challenge such refusals. 

One of such scenarios presented itself in 2017 when we wrote a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Science and Technology regarding information on the building and launch of two of two new satellites by the National Administration of Space Research and Development Agency (NASDRA). We were interested in the intended use of the satellites and their specifications. 

It’s good to pause here to explain the rationale behind FOI Requests. We have found that many regard the request for information as a criticism of work or disagreement with policy, but that’s not necessarily true . At the heart of the FOI requests we send, is a genuine inquiry into facts. As we all know, fake news and the spread of false information have attempted to devalue the quality of public discourse and knowledge. So, when we ask public institutions clear questions, we are attempting to elicit the right information from the right sources. 

That said, our request to the Ministry of Science and Technology was not granted. As many Civil Society Organizations will attest to, this is not a strange ‘reaction’ from a public institution. For us however, the fact that this reaction was anticipated did not make it acceptable. 

Section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act clearly provides that any applicant who has been denied access to information to apply to the Court for a review of the matter within 30 days after the public institution denies the application. So we took advantage of that provision and approached the court seeking for a declaration that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondents to disclose or make available to the applicants the information amounts to a violation of the applicants’ right of access. We also sought for a Declaration that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondents to disclose information amounts to wrongful denial of access to information and finally prayed the court for an order of mandamus compelling the respondent to disclose the specifications of the two new satellites and the details of their intended use.

We argued our case and so did the Ministry. Particularly, the Ministry argued that since the information was not under their supervision, it was impracticable for them to supply it. They also argued that the Agency (NASDRA) had no immediate plan to build and launch new satellites. This argument, though simple, revealed something profound to us. If the Ministry had simply responded to our FOI request with the information that the Agency had no immediate plans to build and launch new satellites, we doubt that we would have had to resort to the Courts. We wondered (and still wonder) if we could conclude that the Nigerian public institution would rather answer to the courts than to the citizens.  

The Court reviewed our arguments vis-a-vis applicable laws and reiterated that Section 7 of the Act gives us the right of access to the court to compel the release of the information. The court also pointed out that the law allows the original public institution to transfer the request for information to another agency which it believes has the information that is being requested from it. 

Finally, the court granted all our reliefs and ordered that the Respondents grant the request sought and where they are not in possession of the information requested, they should explain so in a letter and anchor their explanations under legally stipulated exemptions. We were also awarded the cost of N100,000 in our favour. 

This was yet another interesting reveal where we saw the balance of the scale of justice  leaning towards rights and affirming the responsibilities that have to be carried out  in order for those rights to be effectively exercised. 

Of course, we attempted to enforce this judgment but that has proven difficult in itself especially because the subject in focus is arguably moot. 

But we have gotten more from this case than a response to our letter might have given. We have tested the law and it worked, at least in this scenario. We have seen a court of competent jurisdiction hold a public institution accountable to the people it serves and we have strengthened our commitment to seeking, sharing and addressing public information from the proper sources.  This is why we have not given up on processes. 

The author of this article, Adeboro Odunlami is a Legal Officer at Paradigm Initiative

 

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