Category

Advocacy

Paradigm Initiative Launches Call for Short Movie Production Proposals – LONDA

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, ICTs

After the successful production and distribution of Training Day, an audio-visual presentation of PIN’s 2019 Digital Rights report. In this path, PIN recently announced an open call for proposals to a second short film of its 2020 Digital Report dubbed Londa: A Report on the State of Digital Rights and Inclusion in Africa which presents the
state of digital rights in 20 African countries and makes key recommendations
for Digital Rights and Inclusion protection.

The production of the script is expected to take place in the last week of February with the actual production of the movie expected to commence on March 1, 2021. PIN expects a finalised film product by 20 April 2021. Londa is expected not to exceed twenty minutes, a motion picture that can be viewed and understood by all audience segments within Africa while using very simple, inclusive, and comprehensible language.

The call for proposals this year is targeting cutting-edge audio-visual companies to produce and distribute Londa. Because we understand that production and distribution consist of many elements, collaborative pitches of more than one applicant are welcome. The company will oversee the production and distribution of the movie within Africa and beyond.

Roselyn Ifeoma Micheal: The skills I acquired from L.I.F.E has set me on the path to success

By | AbaLIFE, Advocacy, AjegunleLIFE, Digital Rights, Echoes From Life, ICTs, L.I.F.E., Uncategorized

I got to hear about the training through a friend who graduated from the training earlier. The change I saw in her was what motivated me to join the training. I had my fears as I hadn’t touched a computer before, but she assured me that it would not be a problem as the instructors will guide me through the steps and processes. Based on her encouragement, I picked the form and passed through the selection process, and was among the selected few.

During the training, I was nervous when it came to handling the mouse or practicing what was taught. But thankfully, the trainers and officers at the center were so understanding and they helped me overcome my phobia which made the learning process easy.

I was impacted by the training in so many ways. Before the training, I believed acquiring digital skills was meant for extraordinary minds, but all those perceptions were changed during the training as I saw myself doing things I couldn’t have imagined doing before joining the training.

This was not only in digital skills, even the entrepreneurship skills classes exposed me to things I did not know about. Like generating ideas that can change my community, and then my social and communication skills were not left out as I have moved from a timid girl that I used to be to a bold person that can address any gathering comfortably now.

I am so grateful that the skills I acquired from this training have set me on the path to success since I left the training. I will proudly say that with the help of the skills I got, I now work as a secretary in a law chamber and the salary has helped me in contributing to the upkeep of my house making my family more proud of me.

These Institutions exist to create a system of checks and balances, PINs Program Officer, Anglophone West-Africa reacts to Peoples Gazette Clampdown

By | Advocacy, ICTs

Nigerian online news platform Peoples Gazette recently witnessed disruptions on their website. According to reports, these disruptions were based on directives from the Nigerian government to MTN, Glo Mobile, and other telecommunication firms.

The disruptions came as a probable result of the constant criticism of the Nigerian government, coverage of the #ENDSARS protest, and its aftermath which led to blockage of the website and use of alternate URLs by the news media during the restriction.

In a press release by Peoples Gazette Managing Editor, Samuel Ogundipe, he pointed out that “It has always been the duty of the news media to bring to public awareness corrupt practices in the public and private sector, and the flagrant abuse of human rights and the rule of law”.

He further stated that the disruption was targeted sabotage of the work done to throw more light on the darkest corners of Nigeria’s socio-political space.

Paradigm Initiative’s Program Officer, Anglophone West Africa, Khadijah El-Usman raised the importance of freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. “For any democracy to stand, the freedom to impart and express ideas must be protected and more importantly our reporters and journalists that make and shape the news need to be able to work without fear of harassment or intimidation”.

Furthermore, Khadijah highlighted PINs position saying “We need to get to a place as a country where public interest matters are reported without obstacles. Where the press can hold the government accountable unhindered, relay the wants and needs of citizens to government bodies, and provide a platform for the open exchange of information and ideas. These Institutions exist to create a system of checks and balances, to ensure that once one goes beyond its powers, the Government must also do its bit to protect institutions”.

In the meantime, Mr. Ogundipe encouraged readers to adopt the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) while visiting the new website or to follow Peoples Gazette Facebook page to access stories.

PIN Joins Civil Society Organisations in Myanmar to say ‘NO’ to the current Internet Shutdown in the Country

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, ICT Policy, ICTs, Uncategorized

Dear mobile operators and internet service providers in Myanmar, Right now, more than ever, the internet is integral to our survival. Without it we cannot stay connected with each other and the outside world, which heightens the risk for human rights violations against us.

Given this, we are writing with regards to your adherence to the shutdown of social media platforms. On February 3, 2021, mobile operators, international gateways, and internet service providers (ISPs) received a directive from the Ministry of Transport and Communications to block Facebook; on February 5, 2021, an additional directive was received to block the social media platforms Twitter and Instagram.

These directives were given by an illegitimate authority body – by engaging in an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power, the military does not have the right to be recognized as the governing body of Myanmar. By complying with their directives, your companies are essentially legitimizing the military’s authority, despite international condemnation of this very body.

Further, the rights to freedom of expression and information are protected under general international human rights law. As evidenced in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, any restrictions to freedom of expression must be necessary and proportionate to achieving a legitimate aim. With COVID restrictions and ongoing security risks in the country, the people of Myanmar rely on social media platforms to share their voices with each other and the world. The blocking of social media platforms with the intent to silence Myanmar people’s dissent cannot be perceived as a legitimate aim.

We call for mobile operators and ISPs to take every action available to appeal the recent junta directives. Telenor has stated that the directive has a legal basis under the Myanmar Telecommunications Law but this is questionable. Section 77 of the Telecommunications Law authorizes the Ministry of Transport and Communication (MOTC) in case an “emergency situation arises to operate for the public interest,” to direct a telecommunications licensee to
suspend service or “intercept or not to operate any specific form of communication.” According to the International Commission of Jurists, Section 77 is incompatible with international human rights law and standards on freedom of expression and information, which in turn brings into question the validity of the MOTC order.

Additionally, we understand that telecom operators are required to report on requests for personal user data. We would like assurance that your companies are only disclosing information related to life-or-death situations. Facilitating the military’s surveillance of activists and journalists puts them at severe risk.

Finally, we would like to remind all operators that under the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights, you have a duty to not enable or contribute to potential human rights violations. Shutting down an important means for the nation to communicate with one another and bear witness is part of the military’s strategy to illegally retain power, and would thereby allow for potential human rights violations to take place with impunity. To uphold your duty:

  • Mobile operators and ISPs must prevent the military from accessing user data.
  • Mobile operators and ISPs must take every action available to appeal the recent junta directives.
  • Mobile operators and ISPs must develop plans in the event the human rights situation in Myanmar deteriorates.

Your services and actions are needed by the people now more than ever.

Regards,
Myanmar Civil Society Organizations working on:
Human Rights,
Peace and Federal Democracy,
Justice and Accountability

 

APPEL À PROPOSITION: Production d’un court métrage sur l’état des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique.

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs

 Introduction

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) est une entreprise sociale qui construit des systèmes de soutien basés sur les TIC et plaide pour les droits numériques afin d’améliorer les moyens de subsistance des jeunes Africains mal desservis. PIN a développé Londa: un rapport sur l’état des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique, qui présente l’état des droits numériques dans 20 pays africains et formule des recommandations clés pour les droits numériques et la protection de l’inclusion. Il capture entre autres, la fracture numérique aggravée par la pandémie du COVID-19. Le rapport met au jour des infractions dans différents domaines thématiques tels que la vie privée, l’accès à l’information et la liberté d’expression avec un contexte législatif et politique bien exposé.

Raison d’être et portée

PIN cherche à produire un court métrage, de 15 à 20 minutes, qui raconte l’histoire des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique. Le film doit faire ressortir un thème majeur dans les 20 pays rapportés à Londa. Le but est de présenter une production visuelle qui peut être vue et comprise par divers membres de la société africaine. Le langage utilisé doit être simple, inclusif et compréhensible pour atteindre un large public en Afrique. En tant que tel, le demandeur doit répondre en indiquant une stratégie de marketing solide.

 Chronologie

La production du scénario devrait avoir lieu au cours de la dernière semaine de février et la production réelle du film devrait commencer le 1er mars 2021. PIN s’attend à ce qu’un film finalisé soit produit d’ici le 20 avril 2021

 Attentes

PIN recherche une société de production pour faire ce qui suit:

Développer un scénario pour le film de Londa.

  • Produire le film en anglais et en français avec des sous-titres en swahili.
  • Assurer la diffusion du film auprès des publics et des parties prenantes anglophones et francophones, et doubler le film en version française en plus de la production originale anglaise.
  • La société de production de films doit disposer d’un équipement de production moderne et d’un personnel qualifié capable de rédiger des scénarios, de traduire en français, de produire des films et de doubler le film avec les conseils de l’équipe de communication interne de PIN.
  • La société de production cinématographique doit être ouverte à rencontrer régulièrement l’équipe PIN pour toute clarification et mise à jour.

Tâches de production

La société de production de films fera ce qui suit:

  • Développer le scénario anglais et la version française.
  • Produire un court métrage anglais et un doublage français, d’ici le 20 avril 2021.
  • Aligner étroitement la version doublée avec le style et le ton de l’original, tout en la maintenant parfaitement synchronisée avec les lèvres, les expressions et le langage corporel des acteurs.
  • Enregistrer et utiliser une narration française standard et préparez la musique de fond pour le film.
  • Finalisez la production originale en anglais et le doublage en français selon les commentaires fournis par Paradigm Initiative.
  • Finaliser tous types de données (scripts, images, clips, etc.) après consultation et approbation.
  • Utilisez le dernier logiciel de copie de haute qualité.

 Tâches de marketing et de distribution

Pour s’assurer que le film est largement distribué et promu sur les plateformes et canaux locaux et internationaux (en ligne et hors ligne), la société de production doit avoir la capacité de planifier et d’exécuter le marketing et la distribution du film. La société de production doit être capable de faire ce qui suit:

  • Développer un plan marketing complet de 3 mois (mai-juillet) comprenant le public, les médias, les canaux, les attentes et les coûts.
  • Développer et partager une stratégie complète de médias sociaux pour le marketing et la distribution du film.
  • Développer et partager un plan de relations publiques complet pour le marketing et la distribution du film.
  • Veiller à ce que le film soit correctement répertorié sur les plateformes de VOD et les programmes de médias traditionnels en Afrique et à l’étranger.
  • Assurer que le film soit répertorié dans toutes les bases de données de films internationales, les festivals pertinents et les encyclopédies.
  • Faire la publicité de spots, d’affiches et de teasers sur les médias traditionnels, notamment les journaux, la radio et la télévision.
  • Rédiger et produire un contenu et des critiques de qualité, en tenant compte des conventions et des limites des plateformes de médias sociaux.
  • Produire du contenu de haute qualité pour les plateformes de médias sociaux de Paradigm Initiative, notamment Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn et Instagram.
  • Créer et éditer des vidéos qui peuvent être publiées sur les plateformes pour promouvoir le film et le rapport sur les droits numériques en Afrique.
  • Partager régulièrement le contenu avec PIN.
  • Gérer et répondre aux commentaires dans les médias et les médias sociaux.

Qualifications, antécédents et expérience

L’entreprise idéale doit avoir une expertise et une créativité techniques / professionnelles de haut niveau en matière de rédaction, de production et de doublage de films. Le candidat retenu doit:

-Soumettre deux exemples de chacune des œuvres suivantes: Un film-scénario, un film et des productions de doublage vidéo en français directement produites par le candidat.

-Démontrer des compétences en scénarisation, production, développement et doublage de films / films en français. Le film produit doit être en anglais et doublé en français et le scénario doit être produit en anglais et en français.

Les accents français pris en charge incluent la France, la Suisse ou l’Afrique (Togo, Cameroun, Côte d’Ivoire, Sénégal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Congo, Bénin, Tchad, Cameroun, Gabon, RCA, Niger, Mali, Maroc, Tunisie, Algérie).

Soumission

La proposition doit fournir les informations suivantes:

  • Proposition technique: aperçu et méthodologie pour entreprendre la rédaction du scénario; la traduction du scénario; la production du film; le doublage vidéo; le plan de marketing et de distribution ainsi que le plan de travail détaillé montrant les activités importantes de la mission et les jalons.
  • Proposition financière: Inclure un devis détaillé pour la production indiquant tous les coûts nécessaires.
  • La proposition doit également inclure les coordonnées de trois(3) références. Veuillez soumettre la proposition avec le portefeuille de travaux tel que requis et mentionné dans la section qualifications ci-dessus.
  • Les soumissions doivent inclure les directives de sécurité COVID-19.

Si cet appel à proposition décrit vos capacités, veuillez soumettre votre proposition avant le 15 février 2021. Paradigm Initiative encourage les soumissions collaboratives de plusieurs candidats.

Veuillez soumettre vos propositions à rfp@paradigmhq.org avec comme “objet”: Production cinématographique: Londa

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL: Production of a Short Film on the State of Digital Rights and Inclusion in Africa

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, ICT Policy, ICTs

 Introduction

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rights in order to improve the livelihoods of under-served young Africans. PIN has developed Londa: A Report on the State of Digital Rights and Inclusion in Africa which presents the state of digital rights in 20 African countries and makes key recommendations for digital rights and inclusion protection. It captures among other things, the digital divide worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report unearths infractions on different thematic areas such as privacy, access to information, and freedom of expression with the legislative and policy backdrop well enunciated.

Rationale and Scope

PIN seeks to produce a short film, of between 15 and 20 minutes, that tells the story of digital rights and inclusion in Africa. The film must bring out a major theme across the 20 countries reported in Londa. The purpose is to present a visual production that can be viewed and understood by diverse members of the African society. The language used must be simple, inclusive, and comprehensible to reach a wide audience in Africa. As such, the applicant must respond with an indication of a robust marketing strategy.

Timeline

The production of the script is expected to take place in the last week of February with the actual production of the movie expected to commence on 1 March 2021. PIN expects a finalised film product by 20 April 2021

Expectations

PIN is hiring a production company to do the following;

  • Develop a script for the film from Londa
  • Produce the film in English and French with Swahili subtitles.
  • To ensure the distribution of the movie for Anglophone and Francophone audiences and stakeholders, Paradigm Initiative is looking for a movie production company to French dub the film in addition to the original English production.
  • The movie production company should have modern production equipment and qualified personnel capable of scriptwriting, French translation, film production, and dubbing the movie with guidance from PIN’s internal communications team.
  • The film production company must be open to meet with the PIN team regularly for any clarifications and updates.

Production Tasks

The movie production company will do the following:

  • Develop the English script and French version.
  • Produce an English short film and a French dub, by 20 April 2021.
  • Align the dubbed version closely with the style and tone of the original, while keeping it perfectly synchronised to the actors’ lips, expressions, and body language.
  • Record and use standard French narration and prepare background music for the movie.
  • Finalise the original English production and French dub according to feedback provided by Paradigm Initiative.
  • Finalise any type of data (scripts, images, clips, etc.) after the consultation and approval.
  • Use the latest high-quality dubbing software.

Marketing and Distribution Tasks

To ensure that the movie is widely distributed and promoted on local and international platforms and channels (both online and offline), the production company must have the capacity to plan and execute the marketing and distribution of the film. The production company must do the following:

  • Develop a 3-month comprehensive marketing plan (May-July) including the audience, media, channels, expectations, and cost.
  • Develop and share a comprehensive social media strategy for the marketing and distribution of the movie.
  • Develop and share a comprehensive PR plan for the marketing and distribution of the movie.
  • Ensure the movie is appropriately listed on VOD platforms and traditional media programs both in Africa and abroad.
  • Ensure the movie is listed on all international movie databases, relevant festivals, and encyclopedias.
  • Advertising of spots, posters, and teasers on traditional media including newspapers, radio, and TV
  • Write and produce quality content and reviews, taking into account the conventions and limitations of social media platforms.
  • Produce high-quality content for Paradigm Initiative’s social media platforms which includes Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linked In, and Instagram.
  • Create and edit videos that can be posted across the platforms to promote the movie and the Digital Rights in Africa report.
  • Regularly share the content with PIN.
  • Manage and respond to feedback in the media and social media.

Qualifications, Background, and Experience:

  • The ideal company must have movie scriptwriting, production, and dubbing high level technical/professional expertise and creativity. The successful applicant is required to:
  • Submit two examples of each of the following works: A film-script, a film, and French video dubbing productions directly produced by the applicant.
  • Demonstrate competency in scriptwriting, production, developing, and dubbing movies/films in French. The film produced must be in English and dubbed in French and the scriptwriting must be produced in both English and French.
  • Supported French accents include France, Swiss or African (Togo, Cameroun, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Congo, Benin, Tchad, Cameroon, Gabon, RCA, Niger, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria).

 Submission:

The proposal should provide the following information:

  • Technical proposal: Outline and methodology for undertaking the scriptwriting, translation of the script, film production, video dubbing, marketing, and distribution plan as well as, the detailed work plan showing the assignment’s important activities and milestones.
  • Financial proposal: Include a detailed quotation for the production showing all necessary costs.
  • The proposal must also include the contact details of three references. Please submit the proposal with the works portfolio as required and mentioned under the Qualifications section above. Submissions should include COVID-19 safety guidelines.

If this RFP describes your capacities, kindly submit your proposal by 15 February 2021. PIN welcomes collaborative submissions of more than one applicant.

Please submit proposals to rfp@paradigmhq.org with the subject line: Film Production: Londa

LE FLASH: Paradigm Initiative Dévoile DRIF21 à Travers une Conférence de Presse Virtuelle.

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DRIF, ICT Policy

Le vendredi 15 janvier, Paradigm Initiative, a organisé une conférence de presse virtuelle pour lancer officiellement la 8e édition du Forum sur les Droits Numériques et l’Inclusion baptisé DRIF21 avec la participation de plusieurs journalistes de toute l’Afrique. La conférence visait à annoncer l’ouverture des inscriptions de DRIF21, du 18 janvier au 18 février 2021.

Sur le panel, une équipe de Paradigm Initiative constituée de Adeboye Adegoke, responsable du programme des droits numériques, Thobekile Matimbe, Community Manager et Tosin Abolaji, responsable du programme de l’inclusion numérique, a éclairé les représentants des médias sur la raison d’être et ce qui fait de DRIF21 un événement très attendu. Le panel a également annoncé lors de la conférence que DRIF21 va devenir continental et sera co-organisé par plusieurs autres organisations dans 12 pays africains. Les pays hôtes comprennent la Somalie, l’Éthiopie, l’Ouganda, le Soudan du Sud, le Kenya, la Tanzanie, le Tchad, le Nigéria, la Namibie, le Cameroun, la Zambie et la République centrafricaine.

DRIF21 est l’événement phare de Paradigm Initiative qui se déroulera du 12 au 30 avril 2021. Il convient de noter que DRIF21 sera un mélange de sessions virtuelles et physiques. L’événement sera retransmis en direct sur les plateformes de médias sociaux de PIN. DRIF21 est organisé selon un modèle qui célébrera les communautés multi-pays et qui contribuent à la promotion des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique.
Le Forum sur les Droits Numériques et l’inclusion (DRIF) est une plateforme importante où les conversations sur la politique numérique en Afrique sont façonnées, les orientations politiques débattues et les partenariats forgés pour l’action.

Pour plus d’informations sur DRIF21, cliquez ICI.

Envie d’assister à DRIF21? Inscrivez-vous ICI.

Pour toute autre demande, envoyez-nous un e-mail: drif@paradigmhq.org

NEWS BRIEF: PARADIGM INITIATIVE (PIN) HOLDS MEDIA PARLEY TO KICKSTART DRIF21

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DRIF

Paradigm Initiative on Friday, January 15th, organized a virtual media parley to officially kick start the 8th edition of Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum dubbed DRIF21. The virtual media parley attended by journalists from across Africa announced the start of registration for the event programmed for January 18th – February 18th, 2021.

On the panel to enlighten media representatives on the raison d’etre and what makes DRIF21 an anticipated event were, Paradigm Initiative’s Senior Program Manager Mr. Adeboye Adegoke in charge of Digital Rights, Mrs. Thobekile Mathimbe PIN’s Community Manager, and Mr. Tosin Abolaji, Programs Manager in charge of Digital Inclusion. It was highlighted in the media parley that DRIF21 is going continental and will be co-hosted by several other organizations in 12 African countries. The hosting countries include Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Chad, Nigeria, Namibia, Cameroon, Zambia, and the Central African Republic.

DRIF21 is the Paradigm Initiative flagship event that will run from April 12 – 30, 2021. Worthy to note is that DRIF21 will be a mixture of both virtual and in-person sessions. The event will be transmitted live on pin’s social media platforms. The Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) is an important platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped, policy directions debated, and partnerships forged for action. DRIF21 is organized under a model that will celebrate the multi-country communities that contribute to promoting digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

For more information about DRIF21, Click HERE.

Want to attend DRIF21? Register HERE.

For other inquiries, reach out to the DRIF21 team via e-mail: drif@paradigmhq.org

 

PIN Asks Court to Stop NCC from Disconnecting Over 100 Million Nigerians

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Press Release

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) has asked the court to restrain the Nigerian government and telecommunications service providers from carrying out a recent order requiring that all SIM cards not linked to National Identity Numbers be disconnected by the telecommunications service providers by December 30, 2020. The organisation decries the Nigerian government’s order requiring all telecommunications service providers to ask their subscribers to link their National Identification Numbers (NIN) to the SIM cards within two weeks. PIN says it is seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the government and the service providers from carrying out the draconian order as it believes it is a violation of fundamental rights to freedom of expression of Nigerian citizens as guaranteed by Section 39 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution (as amended).

“The proposed blocking of SIM cards not linked with the National Identity Number is unlawful and unconstitutional,” says Adeboye Adegoke, Senior Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative. “Many young people and others, using their mobile phones for expression or to do business online will be affected by the poorly thought-out policy. No reasonable Nigerian will support such a policy that is geared to make life unbearable for Nigerian citizens.”

In June 2020, the Director General of the National Identity Management Commission, Aliyu Aziz, said only 38% of Nigerians have any form of identification. According to him: “…over 100 million Nigerians have no identity (ID). These include the poorest and the most vulnerable groups, such as the marginalised – women and girls, the less-educated people, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, people with disabilities and people living in rural and remote areas.”

The said policy has created panic in the polity since it was announced. Nigeria, at the moment, is experiencing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic according to the daily numbers from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the past one week. “This is a time when we need to discourage public gatherings and crowds, but it appears that the government is not sensitive enough and has asked that 100 million Nigerians should go and register for the National Identification Number within 2 weeks, so we are left with no choice but to seek the intervention of the court.”

“Requiring over 100 million Nigerian citizens to register for NIN in two weeks is not only unrealistic but a fire brigade approach to governance that will not bring any value to the people,” says Valery Njiaba, Communications Officer at Paradigm Initiative. “Whatever the government is trying to achieve by the strange directive is ignoble. When the same government of Nigeria tried to compel students writing UTME examinations to register for the NIN as a pre-requisite to sitting for the examinations earlier this year, many students couldn’t register, even though there are documented cases of government officials and law enforcement officials taking advantage of the desperation of the students to register for NIN to extort them and their parents. The government was forced to walk back on the policy at that instance. These are the types of effects the fire-brigade approach to policymaking could lead to”, Valery concluded.

Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis: Net Blackout and Govt’s One-Way Fact Check.

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

Ethiopia has had a challenging 2020 relative to the internet. There has been a triple outage – two restricted to particular zones and one nationwide. The first outage in western Oromia lasted three months in an area government was combating rebels.

The second and more impacting being the nationwide blackout imposed in June, through the better part of July followed the killing of a famed Oromo artiste, Hachaalu Hundessa, in the capital Addis Ababa. That blackout lasted over three weeks according to Net Blocks.

The more recent restricted outage is in the northern Tigray region where the government says it is carrying out a “rule of law operation” against the recalcitrant regional government led by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front, TPLF.

Immediately after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed “declared war” on the TPLF in early November 2020, internet connectivity was cut across Tigray as federal forces engaged the regional forces in hostilities that have triggered a humanitarian crisis along the border with Sudan.

Government’s one-way fact-checking via Facebook / Twitter

Days after the operation began in western Tigray, the government announced official social media channels (Facebook / Twitter) – to debunk fake news. Relaying official account of the operation and debunking misinformation was the main task of the State of Emergency Fact-Checking handles.

From new reports about the bombing of a dam, enlisting of South Sudanese soldiers, and talk of regional even continental mediation; the government debunked all of the above whiles confirming other separate incidents reported in the press and posted on social media.

Incessant as the calls for de-escalation and restoration of especially communication services have been, the calls have all been rebuffed by Addis Ababa. The United Nations, African Union, human, media, and digital rights groups, have all made the unheeded call.

Most people tweeting about the crisis are believed to be Ethiopians from the diaspora and or political and security watchers who receive their information from other sources – be it diplomatic or by other means.

The regional authorities despite the blackout continue to grant interviews especially to the major news agencies – Reuters, AFP whiles other journalists in the region also relay news via Twitter especially.

Analysts on Ethiopia’s ‘assault’ on connectivity

Internet Rights expert, Ekai Nabenyo, East Africa lead for net rights group Paradigm Initiative, PIN; in an article described the Ethiopian government’s appetite for internet shutdowns as “insatiable and atavistic.” 

“…in blatant disregard of basic human entitlements, the government of Ethiopia never missed an opportunity to violate the rights of citizens. At the slightest provocation, the government appears to always have as its first option, internet shutdowns and communication restriction.”

“Internet shutdowns are never a good option in times of crisis or national emergencies. A society that does not have access to information is a society that is walking in a fathomless abyss,” he added.

For other analysts, it was intriguing that a government creates the conditions for fake news to be peddled yet positions itself to be a “unilateral” source of credible information. 

Why the outrage and calls for lifting measure

The Ethiopian government did not give any reasons – it hardly ever gives reasons for such security-related shutdowns – but experts have said the move was to ensure that government controls the war narrative plus to disrupt communication lines of “opponents.”

Despite not being opponents, the media became one of the most adversely impacted by the communications blackout. People outside of the region could also not connect with family and friends trapped in the region. 

In a recent Reuters report, the script read in part: “Claims from all sides are difficult to verify since phone and internet links to the region have been down…” Several journalists have had to depend on diplomatic sources and other means to report incidents.

Most analysts have stressed the impact of unverifiable information. In which instance people peddle fake news along with its attendant dangers. Local and international watchers have tasked the government to lift the outage.

“Cutting off communication has severely hampered the ability to monitor the situation on the ground, particularly the impact of the clashes in the local population,” UN human rights head Michelle Bachelet said in a November 6 statement.

Bachelet asked Addis Ababa to “re-establish all basic services, including Internet and telephone connections.” Adding that “the right of all people to be informed and to access information is particularly vital in a crisis situation”.

Conclusion

But authorities in Ethiopia are not alone in seeking to unilaterally combat fake news, over in Nigeria, the Army has recently appropriated unto itself busting fake news on social media. 

In the aftermath of the deadly toll booth shooting in Lagos amid the #EndSars protests, the Army stamped “fake news” labels on social media posts alleging their complicity in the incident.

Restricting the internet as done by Addis Ababa was to achieve an end – be it security or information control. Going a step further to fact check reports underlines the importance of combating unverified/fake news.

The writer, Abdul Rahman Shaban Alfa, is a 2020 Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion fellow. He is a digital journalist who writes on major digital rights trends across Africa.  

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