Category

Digital Rights

Tanzanian Parliament Passes Digital Rights-Hurting Amendments Despite Pushback by Civil Society Organizations

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

On June 27, 2019 the Tanzanian parliament passed into law amendments to the Written Laws despite pushback from civil society and human rights defenders. The Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments No. 3 of 2019) Bill was made public on June 19 under a “certificate of urgency” to speed up its passage. The discussions concerning the bill began in Parliament on June 21, 2019. Members of civil society raised their concerns over the short notice to provide feedback on the Bill on the morning of June 21. ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, a digital rights organisation working in the region, stated that “Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) urged that if this bill was to be passed it would restrict the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, placing impermissible restrictions on civil society organisations’ operations’’.

The laws proposed to be amended included the Non-Governmental Organisations Act 2002 (NGOs Act), Society Act, Trustees and Incorporations Act and The Companies Act 2002 among others. These four laws are among the main laws which govern Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Tanzania hence raising concerns over whether this was targeted as well as the previous laws to further compress democracy in Tanzania. Tope Ogundipe, Director of Programs Paradigm Initiative, noted, “On June 21 and 22, 2019, some CSOs managed to submit their views before Parliamentary committees in Dodoma. However yesterday the Parliament passed it with only a handful of recommendations being carried forward’’.

The role of Civil Society in fostering development and protecting human rights can not be underestimated. CSO’s have not only provided jobs but have contributed to positive development in various sectors of the economy and wellbeing of the nation. In a statement issued by the Tanzania Human rights defenders coalition (THRDC) along with over 300 other CSO’s, the urgency of passing this bill did not give reasonable time for the public to comprehend the implications of such a law. In attempts to push back, movements such as Change Tanzania published an online petition to collect signatures to lobby the parliament to give more time for comments before passing. However despite collection of over 900 signatures in a span of two days, the petition fell on deaf ears.

There are some positive aspects to the amendments such as the Statistics Act now giving room for due process, as well decriminalizing publishing of statistics data. However, the National Bureau of Statistics still has the final say on the approval of statistics. A post on Instagram by THRDC said that “The government has agreed to put in place procedures for compliance for companies and NGO’s, make amendments to the definition of NGO, Amendments of section 26 which was to give the registrar powers to suspend an NGO Pending determination by the board and monitor and evaluate NGO’s on a quarterly basis’’. Other sections include section 27 and 28 which covers deregistration of NGO’s which fail to comply within the time frame of 2 months. However, it is still unclear which of the specific recommendations from stakeholders have been taken into account when making amendments under the provisions highlighted.

The Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan, added, “The country has passed a series of oppressive laws in a short span of slightly over a year when they first released the changes to the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) in March last year’’. This was followed by amendments to the Statistical Act and then the Political Parties Act that was passed earlier this year as well, not giving enough time for concrete responses from stakeholders. While the county is approaching elections, the role of civil society at this crucial time is jeopardized.

For the citizens of Tanzania there’s no safe space both offline and online. With content online subject to fall under the Cybercrime Act or seen as a violation of EPOCA there’s no room to express views. With the coming in of such new laws Civil society that have been working towards seeking redress and legal strategies to protect human rights including digital rights are left exposed.The role CSO’s have of building communities of trust both offline and online and keeping citizens engaged in matters of direct concern via media and other means will also be challenged. The possibility of some NGOs failing to comply with new laws will make the struggle to protect civic spaces an even more challenging battle.

This law that was just passed will join the other laws such as the EPOCA, Political Parties Act and Cybercrime Act that have established clear boundaries and leave little room to hold the government accountable and to criticize it. Tope Ogundipe, Director of Programs at Paradigm Initiative continued, “We urge that proactive measures be taken to protect the existence of vibrant civil societies that play a role in creating peaceful and equal societies. We implore the government of Tanzania to ensure the stability and openness of democratic and civic spaces in Tanzania by respecting and protecting the role of civil society as a key player in the promotion of democratic ideals”.

Paradigm Initiative sends FoI Request to NCC on Nigeria’s New Surveillance Provisions

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

Paradigm Initiative has asked the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to provide it with information on its role in Nigeria’s surveillance and interception programmes. Relying on the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the pan-African Digital Rights and Digital Inclusion organization is requesting information on the role the regulatory agency plays in enabling law enforcement in Nigeria to carry out communication surveillance and interception of communications in the discharge of their duties. 

In a copy of the request sent to NCC and seen by this media house, the organization has, among other requests, asked NCC to disclose what measures it has in place to ensure that government does not abuse communication surveillance and interception of communications to target political opponents and critics, among others. It also asked the Commission to disclose the regulatory framework under which communication surveillance and interception of communications is being carried out in Nigeria. 

Speaking on the request, Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager, Digital Rights, Anglophone West Africa at Paradigm Initiative, says “this is not the first time Paradigm Initiative is engaging the Nigerian government on its communications surveillance and interception activities. Our goal remains to ensure that surveillance is accountable and transparent. We are equally excited by the prospects of technology to help law enforcement fight criminality, but we are at the same time wary of how such technology can serve as a tool in the hands of the incumbent to abuse citizens’ right to privacy or spy on the opposition and critics of government’’.

On what triggered this latest request, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe, said, “In a Bill recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Government will henceforth allow foreign governments to spy on and intercept the communications of Nigerian citizens.” The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Law makes provision for Nigeria to assist foreign governments to carry out surveillance and intercept communications of suspects during criminal investigations. “The Nigerian Government can no longer deny it has the capacity to carry out communications surveillance and interception, it would be great to see what safeguards are in place around this, given the dangerous dimensions it can take”, Ogundipe concluded.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has seven days within which it must respond to the request according to the Freedom of Information Law 2011.

Call for Applications: Regional Digital Rights Workshops / Appel à Candidatures: Ateliers Régionaux sur les Droits Numériques

By | Digital Rights

Paradigm Initiative will host two Digital Rights Workshops in Anglophone West Africa and Francophone Africa in October 2019. These workshops will be focused on understanding and navigating the policy and regulatory landscape related to digital rights and security, as well as learning advocacy and engagement strategies for those who work or are interested in promoting and defending human rights online in Africa.

The subject of human rights online has never been more important than it is now. The subject is not only relevant to policy makers, advocates, and civil society organisations working around the theme of ICTs for Development, but for all who rely heavily on the use of the Internet for their work for Human Rights and/or Freedom of Expression, media institutions, and individuals who use the internet for activism, advocacy or civil engagement.. Many African governments are rolling out legislation and policies which enforce privacy violations, infringements to freedom of expression, access restrictions and hurt other digital rights.

We invite you to apply to join the Digital Rights Workshop in either Anglophone West Africa or Francophone Africa by completing the application form at the end of this announcement. The 3-day session in either region, will be open to only a limited number of participants who live and work in these regions. Selection will be based on best-fit considerations with a focus on the likelihood that the workshop will be useful to your ongoing work. Workshop materials, coffee/tea and lunch will be provided during the workshop.. We have limited funding to support flight and accommodation, and you may indicate whether or not you need sponsorship on your application form. However, we strongly encourage that you do not apply for support if you can sponsor yourself to the workshop as this may improve your chances of selection if you qualify. Again, travel support is very limited and will be very competitive. Registration closes July 12, 2019.

Apply via: http://bit.ly/Digital-Rights-Workshops

 


Paradigm Initiative organisera en octobre 2019, deux ateliers sur les droits numériques en Afrique de l’Ouest Anglophone et l’Afrique francophone. Ces ateliers seront axés sur la compréhension, la navigation dans le paysage des politiques, de la réglementation, et sur la collaboration avec d’autres organisations qui sont intéressées afin de promouvoir et défendre les droits de l’homme en ligne en Afrique.

Le sujet des droits de l’homme en ligne est plus important que jamais. Ce domaine ne concerne pas seulement les décideurs, les défenseurs et les organisations de la société civile travaillant sur le thème des TIC pour le développement, mais également pour tous ceux qui comptent beaucoup sur Internet pour leurs travaux sur les droits de l’homme et / ou la liberté d’expression, les médias, les institutions et les personnes qui utilisent Internet à des fins d’activisme, de plaidoyer ou d’engagement civique.

Nous vous invitons à participer à l’atelier sur les droits numériques en Afrique de l’Ouest Anglophone ou en Afrique Francophone en complétant le formulaire de candidature à la fin de cette annonce. La session de trois jours dans la région ne sera ouverte qu’à un nombre limité de participants qui vivent et travaillent dans ces régions. La sélection sera basée sur les meilleures pratiques en mettant l’accent sur la probabilité que l’atelier soit utile à votre travail en cours. Le matériel de l’atelier, le café / thé et le déjeuner seront fournis pendant l’atelier. Cependant, nous vous recommandons vivement de ne pas demander de soutien de voyage si vous pouvez le financer, cela augmentera vos chances de sélection si vous êtes admissible. Encore une fois, l’aide aux déplacements est très limitée et sera très compétitive. Les inscriptions se terminent le 12 juillet 2019.

Postulez via: http://bit.ly/Digital-Rights-Workshops

 

Meet the Paradigm Initiative Team at RightsCon 2019

By | Digital Rights

Paradigm Initiative will be represented by 6 team members at RightsCon 2019 holding in Tunisia next week. The team, comprising Rebecca Ryakitimbo (Google Policy Fellow, Eastern Africa), Bulanda T. Nkhowani (Google Policy Fellow, Southern Africa), Rigobert Kenmogne (Program Officer, Francophone Africa), Adeboye Adegoke (Program Manager, Anglophone West Africa), ‘Gbenga Sesan (Executive Director) and Tope Ogundipe (Director of Programs), will speak on 12 panels and organise/contribute to a series of engaging sessions.

Some of the sessions include ‘Developing a Digital Rights model law for Africa’, Elections and Public Discourse in Africa: Do Social Media Platforms Level the Playing Field?’, ‘Changing Practices of Internet Manipulation’, ‘Kunyamazisha: Gagging Online Free Speech in Sub-Saharan Africa’, ‘Improving Cooperation to Advance Human Rights Online’, ‘Putting Users First! The Responsibility of Tech SMEs in the Global South to Respect Human Rights’, among others.

See sessions that team members are hosting, or speaking at, below:

June 12
0900 – 1015: Cloudy with a Chance of Cybernorms (‘Gbenga Sesan speaking)
0900 – 1015: Improving Cooperation to Advance Human Rights Online (‘Gbenga Sesan speaking)
1715 – 1830: Multistakeholder Models of Content Moderation: A Global Perspective (‘Gbenga Sesan speaking)

June 13
0900 – 1015: Developing a Digital Rights Model Law For Africa (Adeboye Adegoke speaking)
0900 – 1015: Changing Practices of Internet Manipulation (Rigobert Kenmogne speaking)
1030 – 1145: Does Social Media Deserve a Sin Tax? The Impact of Internet Service Levies on Human Rights and  Sustainable Development in Africa (‘Gbenga Sesan speaking)
1415 – 1530: Putting Users First! The Responsibility of Tech SMEs in the Global South to Respect Human Rights (‘Gbenga Sesan speaking)
1545 – 1700: Elections and Public Discourse in Africa: Do Social Media Platforms Level the Playing Field? (Adeboye Adegoke hosting)
1545 – 1700: Defining Meaningful Access: An expanded approach to connectivity (Tope Ogundipe speaking)
1715 – 1830: Business and Human Rights in Africa and South-Asia: Network Shutdown & Data Disclosure Requests Under Conflicting Legal Frameworks (‘Gbenga Sesan speaking)

June 14
0900 – 1015: Kunyamazisha: Gagging online free speech in Sub-Saharan Africa (Bulanda T. Nkhowani moderating, Rebecca Ryakitimbo speaking)
1030 – 1145: Aligning Cybercrime Laws with International Human Rights Standards (‘Gbenga Sesan speaking
1200 – 1300: “Causing an UPROAR!” Over Internet Freedom at the Universal Periodic Review (Adeboye Adegoke speaking)

For updates from #RightsCon, follow our twitter handle, @ParadigmHQ, and for more details about RightsCon, visit the official conference website at https://www.rightscon.org.

Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum to Host Delegates from 38 Countries in Lagos

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

The seventh edition of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) will host delegates from 38 countries to deliberate on issues confronting the digital space in Africa. This is according to a press statement by Paradigm Initiative, the organiser of the conference of the 3-day conference. The Forum took off today in Lagos and will run until Thursday, April 25.

According to the statement, DRIF19 will welcome delegates from civil society, academia, media, technical community, government- including security agencies, judiciary, and legislature, and the private sector, from 32 countries in Africa, and 6 countries outside the continent. The Forum will also be live-streamed to a global online audience here, while those interested in monitoring conversations at the Forum can follow its hashtag, #DRIF19.

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, “formerly known as the Internet Freedom Forum, DRIF has become well known for its track record of tangible actionable outcomes and has gained a reputation as an important platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped, and policy directions forged. The broad categories of participants expected are state actors, civil society organizations, academia, human rights activists, technology entrepreneurs, gender activists, as well as policy enthusiasts and actors within the global internet governance space.”

DRIF features engaging conversations which draw on globally relevant issues, as well as Africa-specific challenges and opportunities. Panellists and participants are drawn based on a multi-stakeholder model, allowing stakeholders who have hitherto operated in silos to talk to one other about common challenges.

“For the first time, the Forum this year will focus considerably on digital inclusion conversations as the basis for digital rights, on a continent where internet penetration is lowest and the opportunities which ICTs provide remain elusive to many. This year’s edition will also feature more side sessions, allow for bilingual communication and participation as it has done since 2017, and encourage post-event collaborations to further strengthen the discourse of Internet Freedom in Africa,” Ogundipe added.

Speakers expected at the conference include Albert Antwi Boasiako, Ghana’s National Cybersecurity Advisor, Segun Mausi, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Africa Division, Hawa Ba, Head of the Senegal Country Office, Open Society for West Africa, and Lanre Osibona, Special Advisor on ICT to the President of Nigeria. Others are Dr Ernest Ndukwe, former Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Robert Muthuri of Strathmore University, and Onica Makwakwa, A4AI Africa Regional Coordinator

The Forum is expected to refocus attention on issues confronting the digital space on a continent where human rights online are routinely violated.

Paradigm Initiative Releases 2018 Annual Report, Demonstrates Impact

By | Digital Rights, Echoes From Life, Press Release

The social enterprise, Paradigm Initiative has released its 2018 annual report. The report provides insight into the work of the organisation, especially in how it lives up to its mission of improving the “livelihoods of underserved youths”.

Featured in the annual report is Joy Ukpong, an alumna of the group’s free digital inclusion program. At the time of joining the program, 27-year old Joy Ukpong’s income was N10,000 a month as a  struggling hairdresser in Ajegunle, Lagos. She was desperate for a break, and Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Inclusion program gave her the break which she wisely seized, learning relevant digital and life skills.

Few weeks after the conclusion of the 10-week training, Ukpong got a job as an administrative assistant at a law firm. Her income immediately jumped to N25,000. Thanks to her new skills, Ukpong has a more stable income and work structure that allows her to develop herself.

Her story, according to Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi, “is another proof that our investment in digital inclusion programs in underserved communities is indeed improving the livelihood of the beneficiaries.”

The Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan also said, “As a result of the year’s investment in under-served Nigerian youth, we were able to train 869 students through the 10-week LIFE program, LIFE@School Club and the quarterly workshops. 150 students got internships, picked up jobs, earned enough to return to school, joined apprenticeship programs and/or started micro businesses. During the year, the average income among our students grew from N4,805.15 to N23,083.25!”

Highlighting the group’s work in digital rights, Sesan said “In 2018, our Digital Rights work covered Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. We hosted 13 training programs, reviewed 36 policy documents, produced 12 research-based reports, acted on 20 digital rights violations, and led 4 litigation processes.”

The Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe said the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill in Nigeria is an important milestone for the group in 2018. The Bill, which was transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on February 5 2019, has been a major project of the group since 2014 when it began advocacy for the passage of a law dedicated to the protection of online rights and freedoms.

Paradigm Initiative, which was founded in Nigeria in 2007, is physically present in five African countries, from where it executes programs across the continent.  The group said its new Strategic Management Plan (2019-2023) would even see it do more over the next few years.

Protect Press Freedom, Paradigm Initiative Urges Ugandan Government

By | Digital Rights

Paradigm Initiative condemns the actions of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) which ordered the immediate suspension of a news website published by Monitor Publications Limited.

As reported by Committee to Protect Journalists, the Monitor group came under investigation following claims by the Speaker of the Uganda parliament which accused the paper of publishing fake news. The UCC claimed the news site was unlicensed. The issued notice by UCC on registration of online content providers was issued last year in March.

The case of the Daily Monitor highlights the many attempts and actions that are stifling press freedom within Uganda and Africa overall. On the day the news site suspension was ordered, BBC investigative journalists were arrested on the ground of illegal possession of restricted drugs during an undercover investigation of the black market of medicine in Uganda.

Arrest, closure and even physical abuse are often used as a means of suppressing and threatening the exercising of a free press in Uganda. Last year a number of journalists were beaten and their equipment damaged. On August 23, 2018, the police brutally attacked and damaged tools of journalists who were covering protests for the release of Bobi Wine. The plight of the press in Uganda is dire as the Ugandan president of Uganda has openly threatened and accused them of defamation and incitement.

Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy for East Africa, Rebecca Ryakitimbo said, “We urge the government of Uganda to review repressive laws such as Anti-Terrorism Act 2002, the Press and Journalism Act 1995, and the Public Order Management Act 2013 among others that hinder a free press.Without a free press, society is doomed to suffer from misinformation and the media ecosystem is further oppressed with only a handful of players making it a scene of the chosen few and crime to the masses.”

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#KeepItOn : vers une élection sans internet au Sénégal?

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Uncategorized

Par Emmanuel Vitus

Le Sénégal est le seul État d’Afrique occidentale, îles exceptées, à ne pas avoir subi de coup d’état depuis son indépendance, en 1960. La transparence et stabilité qui ont toujours marqué les échéances électorales ont contribué à faire du pays un exemple régional. Mais le prochain scrutin présidentiel s’annonce dans un climat tendu caractérisé par la montée en puissance des «Fake News» et des discours de haine en ligne.

Alors que la campagne électorale a débuté depuis une semaine, sur les réseaux sociaux, les campagnes de dénigrements et de désinformations sont au firmament. Pour contrer le phénomène, le gouvernement a annoncé l’adoption de nouvelles dispositions contre la diffusion des «Fake news» et des discours de haine sur internet.

Mais déjà, plusieurs voix s’élèvent aussi bien dans la société civile que du côté de la presse.

Même s’ils reconnaissent de façon unanime l’urgence de mettre un terme à l’hémorragie des «Fake news», les professionnels des médias craignent que la nouvelle loi à adopter ne restreigne l’espace de la liberté d’expression ou ne soit instrumentalisée par les pouvoirs publics pour museler la presse.

Aussi, plusieurs tribunes ont été commises par des journalistes sénégalais pour alerter l’opinion sur les risques de censures et d’extrapolation des accusations de «Fake News» que les pouvoirs publics pourraient porter contre tout Sénégalais dès que leurs intérêts seront menacés.

Peine d’emprisonnement

Du point de vue juridique, c’est l’article 255 du code pénal qui réprime la diffusion des «Fake news» au Sénégal. La disposition punit d’une peine d’emprisonnement de trois (3) ans et d’une amende de 100000 à 1500000 FCFA la «publication, diffusion, divulgation ou reproduction, par quelque moyen que ce soit, de nouvelles fausses, de pièces fabriquées, falsifiées ou mensongèrement attribuées à des tiers (…) lorsque la publication faite ou non de mauvaise foi, aura entraîné la désobéissance aux lois du pays ou porté atteinte au moral de la population, ou jeté le discrédit sur les institutions publiques ou leur fonctionnement».

Selon la loi sénégalaise, en cas de diffusion de «Fake news», le mandat de dépôt est obligatoire (art 139). De même, les auteurs pourraient être frappés d’une interdiction de séjour sur le sol sénégalais durant cinq (05) ans au plus.   

Article 27, l’épée de Damoclès

Bien que le gouvernement ait annoncé à plusieurs reprises ne pas vouloir entraver la liberté des Sénégalais, l’article 27 d’un projet de loi portant «Code des communications électroniques», déjà adopté en conseil des ministres le 6 juin 2018, laisse des doutes sur la sincérité des engagements du pouvoir public à laisser l’internet ouvert lors du prochain scrutin.

Dans un de ses alinéas, il stipule, entre autres, que «l’Autorité de régulation peut autoriser ou imposer toute mesure de gestion du trafic qu’elle juge utile pour, notamment préserver la concurrence dans le secteur des communications électroniques et veiller au traitement équitable de services similaires».

Cette clause selon la société civile, témoigne à suffisance de la volonté des autorités étatiques de livrer les Sénégalais au diktat du régulateur et des opérateurs lors du prochain scrutin.

Perte évaluée à 3 milliards

Si le gouvernement de Macky Sall venait à couper l’internet le 24 février prochain, près de 10 millions d’internautes seront déconnectés du monde sans compter les conséquences sur la vie socio-économique du pays.

Une journée de coupure d’internet au Sénégal coûtera environ 5849015 dollars US soit environ 3370101532 CFA par jour selon les estimations de Netblocks, une plate-forme qui évalue l’impact économique des coupures d’internet à travers le monde. C’est un minimum parce que l’estimation ne comprend pas les paiements mobiles, les transactions du secteur informel et les recettes fiscales.

Une probable coupure constitue un danger pour le développement de l’économie numérique pour la jeunesse de ce pays en particulier. Cette jeunesse ambitieuse, en quête de revenus qui s’activent dans l’entrepreneuriat numérique.

Aussi, une éventuelle coupure constituerait un frein au développement de toutes les entreprises sénégalaises et couches sociales qui dépendent du numérique.  

Vivement que le Sénégal, reconnu mondialement pour ces politiques progressives, maintienne l’internet ouvert lors du prochain scrutin pour l’intérêt de ses 16 millions d’habitants, car la liberté d’expression et de communication est une liberté fondamentale pour toute démocratie.

 

Emmanuel Vitus est membre de Google Policy chez Paradigm Initiative.

Digital rights are human rights, even during elections

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Uncategorized

By Babatunde Okunoye

In the context of Africa’s socio-economic challenges, elections are a high stakes process where heinous atrocities have been committed. The list includes mass killings, abductions, rape, arson and assassination. At the onset of the digital age, as the power of digital media became apparent by events such as the Arab Spring uprisings, the free flow of information during elections has also come under attack.

In Africa, Internet shutdowns or even limited social media blackouts have mainly occurred around elections or other political events. And we don’t need to look far behind to learn how, because in 2019 already we’ve had Internet shutdowns or social media shutdowns in Congo DRC, Chad, Sudan, Gabon and Zimbabwe – all politically motivated.

In Nigeria, we say ‘’there is no smoke without fire’’. When a few weeks ago the Nigerian Guardian, perhaps Nigeria’s most authoritative news source carried a report citing fears of an Internet shutdown in the country implemented by the government, there was clear concern among civil society activists. Hence our relief was palpable when the government later came out to deny such plans. We hope they keep to their word, unlike the authorities in Zimbabwe did after similar assurances. (See tips here to stay online in the event of internet restriction) 

As Nigeria chooses its President and other national leaders starting this Saturday, we urge the authorities to recall that elections are servants of national development. They serve as a vehicle to usher in new leaders and drivers of development for a nation. Their coming must never be heralded by the dark episode of an Internet disruption.

Internet shutdowns are human rights violations. They do not serve the purpose for which they’re implemented – usually to avoid the spread of violence or other trouble. Rather, the information blackout they occasion can be deadly in numerous humanitarian situations such as emergencies. As we all go out to vote to start on Saturday, we urge our leaders to also vote to keep the Internet on.

 

Babatunde Okunoye leads research at Paradigm Initiative. 

 

  

 

On Zimbabwe’s Approval of a Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill

By | Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

The government of Zimbabwe has approved the Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill of 2017 according to IT Web Africa . The Bill which has been under review for over two years is a merger of three draft Bills, namely the Data Protection Bill, the Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commerce Bill, and the Computer Crime and Cybercrimes Bill.

Coincidentally, the legislation’s approval comes a few weeks after an internet shutdown was experienced during January 2019 public protests over rising fuel and other commodity prices. While many factions challenged the legality of using the Interception of Communications Act 2017 to effect the internet blockage, the Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill was met with similar criticisms. Critics have pointed out its inability to appeal to a wider purpose other than criminalisation of cybercrimes and computer crimes, without giving provision for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

The move to approve the Bill is widely viewed as a means, by the government of Zimbabwe, to fast track laws that will stifle freedom of expression, access to information, promote interference of private communications and data, and in severe cases, search and seizure of private devices.

Paradigm Initiative agrees with the position of the Zimbabwe Democratic Institute that the crafting of the Bill was driven by government’s fear of citizen power and its will to protect itself from civic pressure unveiled by unrestrained internet freedoms rather than the need to improve citizen’s security online.

The internet in Zimbabwe has played a critical role in mobilizing people for demonstrations calling for democracy, justice and accountability. If the law comes into effect, people will face up to 5 years in prison, a fine or both for inciting violence using social media pages. In January 2019, activist and Pastor Evan Mawarire was detained for two weeks for encouraging citizens to turn up in large numbers to participate in a planned peaceful protest using a YouTube video.

The Cybercrime and Cybersecurity  Bill which aims to address ‘cybercrime and increase cybersecurity in order to build confidence and trust in the secure use of ICTs’, will also facilitate the establishment of a Cyber Security Committee. The multi-stakeholder committee will act as a policy advisory body and as a national contact on cybersecurity issues.

Zimbabwe has been a hotbed for internet related disruptions and arrests in Southern Africa, with a record of multiple social media blocks and a total internet shutdown in 2016 and 2019 respectively.  The Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services defended the country’s recent internet blockage stating that he would not hesitate to shut down the internet again.

There has been no official communication from the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services regarding the Bills approval and the official document has not been made available to the public as of publishing this article. Paradigm Initiative calls on the government to cease all attacks on digital rights.

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