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#PINternetFreedom

Balancing the competing rights of free speech and hate speech

By | #PINternetFreedom, Digital Rights, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

In August, the Nigerian Government announced the increase of fines for hate speech by media houses from N500,000 to N5 million. The announcement was made by the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the unveiling ceremony of the revised National Broadcasting Code by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in Lagos.

The code amendment stirred controversy with Nigerians kicking against its provisions. Many claimed the amended code is another attempt to clamp down on freedom of speech and media since the November proposed hate speech bill, which prescribes death by hanging for any person found guilty of hate speech has been put on hold.

Paradigm Initiative’s Program Manager, Adeboye Adegoke, said the hate speech fine increment has a very huge implication for the civic space and even for journalistic work. He said the government through the fine is forcing Nigerians to self-censor and more importantly, using the media to censor Nigerians.

“Since it is the media platforms that get to be fined at the end of the day, they are naturally compelled to limit the thoughts that their guests, interviewees can share on critical national issues,” Adegoke said.

“What we have seen clearly is an attempt by the government to unilaterally decide what amounts to hate speech and use that as a weapon to targets critical voices in society.”

A lawyer Ayo Odenibokun said the recently increased hate speech fine is absolutely “ludicrous.”

“It is an attempt to subjugate and suppress the people’s right to freely express themselves,” Odenibokun said.

“It is quite unfortunate that such increment is done in an era where the minimum wage is N30,000 only.”

However, the Nigerian government is hell-bent on regulating citizens’ expression online and offline with determination to curb hate speech. In 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, during his Independence Day speech vowed that his administration would take a “firm and decisive action” against promoters of hate speech and other divisive materials on the Internet. The minister of information while announcing the hate speech fine increment stated the amendments were necessitated to vest more regulatory powers in the NBC.

“If we the citizens of the federal republic of Nigeria or as citizens of the world rescind our rights to free speech, that would definitely cripple the meaningful development of our country,” publisher and social change advocate Khadijah Abdullahi -Iya said.

“How would great ideas be shared? Who would then critique the performance of the government and charge them to do better? All of these are necessary elements of a growing democracy.”

Some Nigerians have also argued that the government and regulators would arbitrarily define hate speech and use this new regulation to oppress press freedom and free speech.

This however is not farfetched because, despite the clamour to clampdown on hate speech, there is still no clear identification of what expression or commentary defines Hate speech.

“I think no one is certain about what the phrase ‘hate speech’ denotes,” Abdullahi-Iya said.

“I see it as one of those ambiguous words with fuzzy edges.”

The Nigeria police and State Security Service (SSS), have made regular arrests of journalists, bloggers, and social media commentators. Journalists like Agba Jalingo, have been detained or charged to court for writing articles or posts on social media criticising political officeholders.

“The government ought to look at the root cause of the various criticisms it receives and which are not far fetched i.e. lack of adequate and quality education, insecurity and poverty,” Onibokun said.

“Rather make laws which on the face of it offend the rights of its innocent citizens,” he added.
Adegoke also noted that if Nigeria is really interested in mitigating the effect of harmful speeches then the country must be willing to go through an open, inclusive, and collaborative process in arriving at the best solutions.

“All ongoing conversations are an attempt by the government to unilaterally decide what is acceptable speech and what is not,” Adegoke said

He also stated that once there is an agreement that citizens’ expression should be regulated, then the government would be taking away the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

“ While rights are not absolute. Any derogation to it as provided for by the constitution must be necessary, towards a legitimate end and must proportionate to that legitimate end,” Adegoke said.

Written by Abisola Olasupo – Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow.

Media Parade and Fundamental Human Rights

By | #PINternetFreedom, Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

Almost inevitable every week in Nigeria is a media parade of suspected criminals from state and divisional commands of different security agencies in the country.

During these parades, spokespersons or heads of the security agencies narrate how the suspects were arrested and grant journalists access to interview the suspects who are presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court, according to the Nigerian Constitution.

Sometimes, the paraded persons are later discovered to be innocent of the crime they are accused of committing. But before their innocence is proven, They have been, tacitly, demonised on pages of newspapers and in electronic media.

In 2019, human rights activist Femi Falana, SAN, approached a Federal High Court in Abuja, asking it to declare the pre-trial media parade of criminal suspects by security and anti-corruption agencies in the country illegal and unconstitutional.

Falana argued that “ every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard. This comprises the right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts of violating his fundamental rights as recognised and guaranteed by conventions, laws, regulations and customs in force; (b) the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court or tribunal.”

The case is yet to be heard by the court.

But security agencies in Nigeria have over the years defended the media parade of suspects, claiming they do not tamper with or violate suspects’ fundamental human rights. They claimed it helps to correct vices in the society and also update or inform citizens about what the police are doing about their safety.

The Lagos State Police spokesman Bala Elkana said a person who is being paraded is still referred to as suspects and not criminal by media organisations, the dignity and right of such person is protected.

“We have guidelines on how to carry out a media parade of suspects,” Elkana said.

“The regulation makes it clear for us to create an avenue for citizen to know what the police is doing about their safety,” he added

He further stated that it is not unlawful to parade citizens who are being prosecuted because of any criminal offences.

”It is not unlawful and debatable because it is not unlawful to practice journalism. The best way to inform citizens is to bring the person who is involved in that criminal act to explain how he did it and there is nothing unlawful about passing information,” Elkana said.

“It is not to pronounce him guilty but for citizens to be able to understand how and what crime he/she committed.”

But a lawyer and Human Right activist Tope Akinyoade said the media and public parade of suspects have no legitimacy under Nigeria.
“The law is that a suspect is innocent of any offence until he has been tried and convicted,” Akinyoade said.
“It is therefore overreaching for security operatives to parade innocent citizens. The only exception to this is ‘Identification Parade’ which is allowed by law. But there is a clear distinction between media parade and identification parade.”

The Paradigm Initiative Executive Director Gbenga Sesan stated that nothing will change until people speak up, or seek redress.

“One of the ways to stop rights violations is to challenge that violation using the same courts, in addition to various institutions (that work in social justice — either for offline or online cases) working with the judiciary so that judges can caution such security agencies,” Sesan said.

“If a few security agencies lose cases for parading suspects and even hurting them in the process, they may learn a lesson or two about the place of dignity even for accused people.”

Sesan also asked the media to create their narratives in such a way that suspects are not seen as criminals until proven guilty in court.

“There is a huge narrative role that the media can play to reduce the public shaming of suspects, especially those who are simply victims of law enforcement agencies carrying out the rights violation agenda of public officials.” Sesan said.

Written by Abisola Olasupo – Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow.

Call for applications to the 4th Edition of the Paradigm Initiative (PIN) Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy, Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, DRIF, DRIMF, ICTs, Internet Freedom, Press Release

Fellowship period: 1 March 2021 – 30 June 2021

Application Period: 21 October 2020 to 12 November 2020

The application process is now open for the 4th edition of the Paradigm Initiative (PIN) Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship (DRIMF). Through academic and practical learnings, Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Digital Inclusion Media Fellowship 2021 seeks to embed media professionals within the digital ecosystem. Media Fellows will connect with PIN teams in Cameroon (Yaoundé), Ghana (Accra), Kenya (Nairobi), Nigeria (Aba, Abuja, Kano and Lagos), Zambia (Lusaka) and Zimbabwe (Bulawayo).

The fellowship seeks to expose media professionals to an underreported field of work at national and regional level, increasing reporting on digital rights and inclusion in Africa. Selected media professionals must be affiliated to media institutions within Africa and available to commence the fellowship from 1 March 2021 to 30 June 2021, to connect and collaborate mostly virtually, and where applicable, be present for in-person activities.

Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship is a 4-month program designed to immerse outstanding early career journalists in the digital ecosystem. Selected media professionals will work with Paradigm Initiative on various projects and contribute to improving public understanding of digital rights and inclusion issues in Africa. Applications are open to journalists working in Africa.

Components of the fellowship

  • Online Digital Rights/Inclusion academic training.
  • Interaction with PIN team members within Africa.
  • 4-month virtual mentorship and collaboration with Paradigm Initiative.
  • Fellowship may include fully-funded local and international travel to participate in and cover relevant events related to Digital Rights and Inclusion.
  • A monthly stipend and a one-time research grant during the fellowship period.
  • Paradigm will pair fellows with in-country mentors for the time of the fellowship who will meet the fellows at least twice during the fellowship.

Expectations

Fellows will dedicate a minimum of ten hours a week to fellowship-related activities. Each Fellow will be expected to participate in all scheduled activities and to publish, in their affiliated media (Print, TV, Radio, Online), at least 4 features/reports on digital rights and inclusion issues during the fellowship period. Fellows will retain full editorial direction on the stories that they publish in their affiliated media. In addition, each fellow will produce a research paper on a relevant topic with the guidance of the PIN Team of not more than 1500 words which will be published by PIN. Fellows will be expected to continue to provide coverage on digital rights and inclusion issues after their fellowship.

Requirements

The Fellowship is open to early career journalists with not more than 8 years’ experience in the media sector and affiliated with mainstream print and online newspapers in Africa. Interested candidates must have a relevant undergraduate degree and demonstrate previous coverage of human rights and/or tech issues and interest in advancing digital rights and inclusion.

How to apply

Kindly complete the form here

Expert Condemns Abuse of Cybercrimes Law to Harass Citizens

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy

 

A digital rights expert, Tope Ogundipe has condemned the abuse of Nigeria’s Cybercrimes (Prevention etc) Act to harass journalists and other citizens. She was speaking at the Research Methods Workshop for Internet Policy and Advocacy in Kampala Uganda organized by the Internet Policy Observatory at the Annenberg School for Communications, University of Pennsylvania.

Ogundipe, who serves as Director of Programs at the pan-African social enterprise, Paradigm Initiative, led a session on “Cybercrime, Digital Rights and Law Enforcement in Nigeria”.  She traced the origins of Nigeria’s Cybercrimes Act 2015 and its current use as the prime tool in the hands of the rich and powerful in Nigeria to facilitate the arrest and harassment of journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens for comments made online.

She noted, “Since the passage of the Cybercrimes Act 2015, there has not been one incident where it has been used to prosecute a real cybercrime case. Instead, it has been used to arrest ordinary citizens for comments made online deemed offensive to the powerful in Nigeria

She also noted, “Journalists, in particular, have been at the receiving end of these arrests using the Cybercrime law because a large number of journalists have been arrested in Nigeria using sections 24 and 38 of the law”.

“Paradigm Initiative, in partnership with Media Rights Agenda and Enough is Enough Nigeria, in response to the use of the Cybercrime legislation in the arrests of citizens have challenged the constitutionality of sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrimes law in court. The case has been in the courts since 2016. We lost at the court of the first instance and we are now at the Court of Appeal. Strategic litigation could be a long and drawn out process and as such patience and perseverance are required in this endeavour,” Ogundipe submitted.

During the workshop, which held between from February 26 – March 3, over 35 researchers and practitioners from across Africa were gathered at Kabira resort Kampala Uganda for an intense week of study on research methods that underpin Internet policy and advocacy on the continent. The workshop participants were drawn from 16 African countries while the faculty were drawn from within Africa, Europe and the United States.

The Workshop ended with participants asking questions from the session leader, particularly on how best to conduct strategic litigation within their countries.

 

For more information on this statement, please contact the Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi on sodiq.alabi@paradigmhq.org.  

Monitoring Digital Rights as Sierra Leone and Egypt go to the Polls

By | #PINternetFreedom, ICT Policy

By Babatunde Okunoye

Africa’s many development challenges around the economy, health, security, environment, employment and housing amongst others have for many decades captured the world’s attention. The fragile socio-economic fabric of the continent has resulted in Africa being a major recipient of foreign aid and development grants over the years.

Therefore when it’s election time in Africa, many interests collide as they strive to shape the future of the continent, at least for the time permitted by the term limit of the offices being sought. In Presidential elections, in particular, the stakes are highest because of the tremendous power African Heads of States tend to have to shape the destinies of their countries.

However, it is clear that in recent years, election time in Africa has also become the platform for some of the worst human rights abuses as incumbents strive to hold on to power by all means. Digital rights in Africa have suffered as elections in Africa between 2016 and 2017 have being the setting for Internet shutdowns, blocking of apps such as whatsapp and twitter which citizens use in political mobilizing. Governments across Africa have typically used excuses such restricting fake news and hate speech as a pretext in carrying out information controls around elections, but their real intentions are always plain – suppressing their populations to achieve political advantage.

In March 7 and March 26 – March 28 respectively, the West African nations of Sierra Leone and Egypt in North Africa will conduct Presidential elections in contexts where the incumbents seem inordinately disposed to retain power for self and political party – and as such just the right environment for the blocking/throttling of social media, Internet disruptions, illegal surveillance, clampdown on citizens and journalists as we have witnessed across Africa in recent years. Egypt, in particular, gives the most cause for concern. In addition to implementing one of the most extensive surveillance networks against journalists on the continent, Internet disruptions in the Sinai, authorities in Egypt are currently building a climate of fear where digital rights including freedom of expression and press freedoms cannot thrive.

As these important elections are held in the coming few weeks, Paradigm Initiative will work with partners in the region to monitor the situations in these countries. Alongside the global digital rights community, we are of the firm opinion that access to the Internet should never be disrupted intentionally and those successful elections can be held in Africa without information controls. Elections in Nigeria in 2015 and Ghana in 2016 teach that the Internet can actually become a tool for the successful conduct of elections and the political process in general. This is a lesson we hope can be replicated across Africa.

 

Stakeholders Hold Roundtable on Digital Rights and Engagement in Lagos  

By | #PINternetFreedom, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy

Effective digital engagement by government agencies remains a big priority for the Federal Government because of its immense potential, this was the position of Tolu Ogunlesi, the Head of Presidency Office of Digital Engagement (PODE). Ogunlesi was speaking at a stakeholder roundtable on digital rights and digital engagement organised by Paradigm Initiative, Facebook and PODE.

The roundtable, which held on February 22, in Lagos, brought together stakeholders from government agencies, the private sector and the civil society.  It provided an engaging atmosphere for a lively debate on issues affecting internet freedom and digital engagement by government agencies in Nigeria. Issues discussed at the roundtable include data privacy and protection, law enforcement, libel, fake news, and digital engagement by the government. The roundtable followed the first edition held in Abuja last year.

Speaking at the roundtable, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan emphasised the need for continuous conversation between stakeholders in the private sector, civil society and the government on digital rights issues in Nigeria. He said, “Digital right issues are far too important to our democracy and it is crucial that we engage in conversation with security agencies and public servants on how we can ensure freedom of people online while keeping the nation and citizens safe.”

In her remarks, Public Policy Manager, Africa of Facebook,  Akua Gyeke said, “Facebook is an important platform for political conversation in Nigeria, and we are happy to be a part of this. Facebook is dedicated to keeping people safe online, foster civility and responsible behaviour and promoting free expression and sharing.”

Tolu Ogunlesi, who led the conversation on a proposed Digital Engagement Policy for Federal Government, said that his office was working hard on creating digital engagement standards that would guide all government offices in their use of digital tools to ensure effective communication with the public.

“There is currently no social media policy for the Federal Govt. This is understandable as social media use is relatively new in government circle. But this situation has led to inconsistency in the way government offices use digital media. We are currently working on creating a digital engagement policy for the federal government. It will provide guidelines on platforms to use, accounts administration, logo and naming standard, editorial policies, archival system, content process and management, among other things”

Participants at the roundtable include Anselm Ozioko of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission representing the Acting Chairman of the Commission and the Acting Director of Defence Information Brigadier General John Agim, who provided perspectives from the national security and law enforcement side. Other participants are Chioma Okee-Aguguo representing the CEO of  National Information Technology Development Agency, Olufemi Fadare of the National Identity Management Commission, Olusola Teniola, President, Association Of Telecommunication Companies Of Nigeria (ATCON), Edet Ojo, Executive Director at Media Rights Agenda.

NTA Social Media Gag Order: Dictatorship in Democracy?  

By | #PINternetFreedom, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

By Adeboye Adegoke and Adeboro Odunlami

On the 15th of January 2018, the management of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which is the official government-owned television station, sent an internal circular to its staff expressly restraining them from relating with online publications which concern sensitive and topical national issues. According to the circular which emanated from the Office of the Executive Director (Administration & Training) the act was described as ‘embarrassing’ and ‘reckless and unethical’.

It is baffling that the NTA would issue this kind of instruction to its staff when Section 6(1) of the NTA Act specifically states that  ‘It shall be the duty of the Authority to provide as a public service in the interest of Nigeria, independent and impartial television broadcasting for general reception within Nigeria.’ (emphasis ours)

The NTA was set up to report and make available to the country, news as it is. It is understood that there is hate speech – that sometimes, information can be couched in a way as to incite violence against groups of people or the government. That, obviously, is forbidden and quite unethical.

It should, however, be pointed out that this is not what is being referred to by the NTA in its circular. The circular makes it abundantly clear that what it forbids is ‘sensitive and topical national issues’. It is highly ridiculous and ironic for a federal news agency to forbid the broadcast of national issues simply because they are ‘sensitive’ or ‘topical’. Where else are the citizens supposed to get non-partisan and unadulterated news on national events but from the National TV?

Perhaps the management of NTA has forgotten that it belongs, not to any political party or to please the government, but to cater to the people. And it is to these same people, the NTA has a responsibility. The truth is, if there are topical, sensitive and even controversial issues going on in Nigeria, they must be reported by NTA. It is not the job of NTA to ensure the ignorance of the Nigerian citizens by deciding what their hearts can take and protecting them from the reality of affairs in Nigeria simply because they are topical and sensitive. The best the NTA can do in reporting sensitive matters is to put in excellent effort in its delivery to contain the reaction of its consumers.

Section 6(2) of the NTA Act provides “The Authority shall ensure that the services which it provides, when considered as a whole, reflect the unity of  Nigeria as a Federation and at the same time give adequate expression to the culture, characteristics and affairs of each State, Zone or other part of the Federation.”

It may be the claim of the management of NTA that the circular was intended to ensure the ‘unity of Nigeria as a Federation’, but a further reading of the same provision would, however, reveal the spirit of this law. It says that ‘at the same time, give ‘adequate expression to… affairs of each State… or other part of the Federation.’

Additionally, the Management of NTA needs to be directed to Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which says, ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference’ (the same is provided in Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which has been adopted in Nigeria)

The circular by NTA is very offensive to different degrees of the freedom of expression and the right to information. This is condemnable to us, and to every Civil right-respecting individual. The management of NTA is called upon to review its instructions bearing in mind its statutory responsibilities to the Nigerian people.

We are not asking the  NTA to do anything outside what it was set up to do. Section 8(1)(c) of its enabling Act states that it is the duty of the Authority to ensure ‘that any news given in the programmes (in whatever form) is presented with accuracy, impartiality and objectivity’. NTA is not to cower or shy from the news but is to give news with accuracy, impartiality and objectivity.

 

Adeboye and Adeboro are digital rights advocates with Paradigm Initiative, the pan-African digital rights group. 

Paradigm Initiative Statement on the Arrest of Gambian Political Scientist, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay

By | #PINternetFreedom

The pan-African digital rights organisation, Paradigm Initiative has condemned the arrest of Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, a lecturer at the University of The Gambia.  Gambian police detained and questioned Dr. Ismaila Ceesay yesterday, January 31st,  over comments he made in an interview with The Voice newspaper, a local daily. The paper published a story in which Ceesay is quoted as saying “the presence of ECOMOG forces won’t prevent long-term security risks if the president does not win the trust of the army. According to local sources, “The police are saying that such a comment is a threat and should not be mentioned, thus the reason for his arrest.” While Dr Ceesay has now been released after spending a night in detention, we believe it is important for the government to investigate this unfortunate arrest and punish those responsible for the arrest.

According to local sources, “The police are saying that such a comment is a threat and should not be mentioned, thus the reason for his arrest.” While Dr Ceesay has now been released after spending a night in detention, we believe it is important for the government to investigate this unfortunate arrest and punish those responsible for the arrest.

While commenting on the development, Paradigm Initiative Program Manager for Anglophone West Africa, Adeboye Adegoke opined that “This is a very disturbing news from a government whose ascendancy into power is on the basis of campaign and promise freedom of expression. With this development, President Barrow is beginning to exhibit traits of his predecessor, President Jammeh who demonstrated intolerance and hatred for opposing views and dissent leading to many Gambians going on self-exile.”

“ It is important for the Gambian Government to embrace true democratic values such as freedom of expression which allows citizens to freely express their opinion on any issue without fear of arrest. It is only when this has been done that the New Gambia can truly imagine. This development is a sad one as it apparently reversed the gains of the victory won with the elections that ushered in the government of President Barrow” says ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director at Paradigm Initiative.
Speaking on the development,  Modou Joof, a Gambian born Journalist and free expression activist says “His arrest and detention is unacceptable and he must be released immediately. It violates freedom of expression which the new government promised to promote and protect. It could also have a chilling effect on citizens participation in issues of government”

Speaking further Adeboye calls on civil society organizations, the media and the people of The Gambia not to go to sleep but to be on guard to protect the victory won last year through the successful removal of President Jammeh. This he said will be achieved among other measures by working to review and repeal bad laws such as the Public order act and the Amended communications and Informations Act 2013 and any other laws the Government may rely upon to suppress the fundamental rights of Gambian citizens”.

Paradigm Initiative commends the people of The Gambia especially the students and colleagues of Dr Ceesay at the University of The Gambia for standing up to the police and ensuring the release of Dr Ceesay. The vigilance and vibrant activism exercised by Gambians will go a long way in convincing on the police authorities the need to respect citizens’ rights.

 

 

**

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

Shaping Digital Rights Advocacy in Africa through Policy Intervention

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy

By Babatunde Okunoye & Adeboye Adegoke

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217A), is the foundation for international human rights law. Its drafting shortly after the horrors of World War 2 by representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds across the world sought to codify for future generations what rights humans all over the world should enjoy. Informed by the atrocities of Nazi Germany which only came to light in the final moments of the war, the UDHR was drafted as a part of a process that ensured that never it repeated itself.

In relation to digital rights advocacy, Article 19 of the UDHR has been fundamental. It states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. And although we are many decades away from the destruction of the Second World War, in the 21st century we are currently enmeshed in another type of war – the war on Cyberspace. In this Cyberwar, state actors, the private sector, civil society and individuals are caught up in episodes of local and cross-country cyberattacks, cyberespionage, illegal surveillance, arrests of bloggers, journalists and ordinary citizens. This is particularly true for Africa where state actors have sought to extend the control they had over traditional media to new media channels in a bid to choke the emergence of dissenting voices.

In light of the new reality that the battle for the defence of human rights has moved to cyberspace, on the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, Paradigm Initiative will work to ensure that the digital rights of people across Africa are protected. From our offices in Lagos, Abuja, Yaoundé and Blantyre, we will host workshops across the continent where local actors are trained on digital rights; we will convene the most important voices on digital rights in Africa at our Internet Freedom Forum and we will challenge the now perennial actions of governments which impinge on digital rights, amongst several activities.

Our work in 2017 has been rewarding. As the year wound to an end, news emerged that the digital rights and freedom bill we have worked on in coalition with partners across civil society, government and the private sector had passed 3rd reading at Nigeria’s House of Representatives and now only requires concurrence at the Senate and Presidential assent to become law. The effect of this positive bill of legislation, if passed into law, will be major for digital rights in Nigeria. This is the type of impact we hope to have in 2018, as we work to defend digital rights across Africa.

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is a positive rights legislation which replicates and builds on the objective that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was intended to serve. More importantly, it provides direct safeguards to new realities brought about by the contested cyberspace of the 21st century. The need for African countries to replicate this process is urgent because several African countries have an abundance of laws or legislation which seeks to repress freedom. The various forms of digital rights violations experienced across several jurisdictions in Africa over the years have been made possible because of existing repressive laws. While we will continue to work with partners across the continent to engage policymakers to push for repeals of some of these existing laws, we will also work with local stakeholders to introduce positive rights legislation across the continent. Although this might be perceived as an attempt to correct the ills of the past, it must also be viewed as a proactive approach to prevent violations in countries with fewer records of Digital Rights violations.

The United Nations took an important step in June 2016 in recognizing Internet Rights as Human Rights in United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on the “promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the internet” which condemned countries which intentionally disrupt the internet access of its citizens. The resolution stresses that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online” particularly with regards to the freedom of expression already protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It is now expected of Digital Rights organizations, Human rights Organizations and Civil Society across the continent to work and engage the local processes in each country to ensure this is reflected in National Laws. Paradigm Initiative is committed to this objective and we hope to train and partner with organizations in various African countries, offering our expertise, resources and time to make this possible, so that going forward, Africa will become a bastion and model for digital rights in the 21st century.

 

*Babatunde Okunoye is Research Assitant at Paradigm Initiative

**Adeboye Adegoke is the Program Manager (Anglophone West Africa) at Paradigm Initiative.

Une élection sans coupure d’Internet en Afrique Francophone est-elle possible en 2018 ?

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy, ICT Policy

Par Rigobert Kenmogne

Onze pays d’Afrique francophone préparent diverses élections entre février et décembre 2018.

Le Cameroun, le Gabon, le Congo, le Mali, la Guinée, le Djibouti, le Madagascar, l’Egypte et la Tunisie font partir des pays francophones d’Afrique noire et blanche qui préparent au moins élection en 2018. Comme depuis quelques années déjà, des cas de violations des droits numériques et des libertés sur Internet se font régulièrement constater. A la veille des activités électorales dans de nombreux pays sur le continent, les gouvernements influencent grandement les services de l’Internet en leur faveur soit pour étouffer les manifestions de l’opposition ou alors utilisent Internet pour surveiller les autres candidats ainsi que les citoyens ; ceci se passe souvent avec la complicité des Fournisseurs d’Accès Internet ! Au Cameroun, au Congo, au Gabon, en Tunisie et en Egypte, des cas de violations des droits numériques se font déjà ressentir dans ces périodes pré-électorales. Chaque influence en vers les libertés d’Internet divergent d’un pays à l’autre, mais avec les mêmes objectifs de privation des droits ou de surveillance à des fins politiques et stratégiques.

Le Cameroun prépare environ six élections en 2018. Avant le début des premières élections, le profil des droits numériques n’est pas reluisant. Des actes de restrictions des libertés numériques ont été constatés ; les plus visibles sont des perturbations de l’Internet dans les deux régions anglophones du pays et la lettre circulaire du ministre de la justice en fin d’année 2017 donnant l’ordre aux magistrats d’« engager après leur identification précise par les services de sécurité, des poursuites judiciaires contre toutes personnes qu’elles résident au Cameroun ou à l’étranger, et qui recourent aux réseaux sociaux pour propager les fausses nouvelles.»

Au Congo, le ministre des postes, de télécommunication et de l’information a demandé au Directeur Général de AFRICELL Congo le 30 décembre 2017 par un courrier la suspension totale des fournitures Internet dans le pays ainsi que les SMS. Cette fermeture de l’Internet de trois jours a intervenu après le début des manifestions de l’opposition. Le Congo prépare au mois de décembre 2018 des élections législatives et présidentielles.

Le 27 décembre 2017 au Gabon, le ministre d’Etat en charge de l’Economie numérique a réuni tous les acteurs œuvrant dans ce secteur. Des avis sur la surveillance des réseaux sociaux ont été émis. Selon le secrétaire exécutif de l’Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes (ARCEP), Serge Essongué, « il y a des messages de haine qui sont diffusés sur les réseaux sociaux, notamment sur You Tube. C’est également le cas dans d’autres réseaux sociaux, Facebook. La grande question c’est comment réguler ces messages. Comment faire en sorte que ce principe général qui dit que la liberté de chacun s’arrête là où commence celle des autres soit également appliqué dans les médias sociaux. » Le Gabon prépare des élections législatives après plusieurs renvois pour le mois d’avril 2018.

En Tunisie, les premières élections régionales doivent se tenir pour le mois de février 2018. Avant cette élection, le gouvernement tunisien a tenté de faire adopter un projet de loi sur la carte d’identité biométrique à puce  devant menacer la vie privée tout en mettant en danger la sécurité numérique et le harcèlement. Ce projet de loi a été retardé grâce à une coalition des ONG de défense des droits numériques.

L’Egypte prévoit des élections présidentielles en mars 2018. Mais quelques mois avant ces échéances, le réseau Internet du pays a été de très faible qualité en début janvier 2O18. Les égyptiens n’ont pas tardé d’afficher leurs colères sur les réseaux sociaux et accusent aussi le gouvernement égyptien de vouloir se lancer dans la surveillance des communications.

Les perturbations identifiées ici montrent la volonté manifeste de plusieurs gouvernements de couper l’Internet pendant les activités électorales dans leur intérêt particulier afin de rester aussi longtemps que possible au pouvoir. Les perturbations, les coupures volontaires de l’Internet, les fermetures des réseaux sociaux, les arrestations ou la pression sur les utilisateurs de l’Internet constituent une violation flagrante des droits numériques. Ces activités sont une entorse au droit de l’homme, et un blocage de la prospérité des activités économique et la diffusion de l’information, les acteurs utilisant Internet de nos jours comme principal canal. Face à ces violations, les organisations des droits de l’homme dans divers pays francophones d’Afrique restent encore impuissantes dans des solutions à apporter à cette problématique des droits numériques. Une formation et une structuration des acteurs sur les questions variées des droits numériques ainsi qu’une coalition des organisations en Afrique francophone restent aujourd’hui l’un des défis majeurs pour Paradigm Initiative.

 

Rigobert Kenmogne est Google Policy Fellow pour l’Afrique francophone chez Paradigm Initiative, une organisation panafricaine de défense des droits et de l’inclusion numérique.

 

 

 

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