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Press Release

Press Release: Paradigm Initiative Opens DRIF21 Registration.

By | Press Release

Paradigm Initiative is thrilled to announce the opening of registration for the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum, 2021 starting on Monday, January 18th to Thursday, February 18th, 2021. DRIF21 will run from April 12th to 30th, 2021 with a series of virtual and in-person country interactions in 12 African Countries. DRIF is an important platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped, policy directions debated and partnerships forged for action. It hosts diverse skills and capacities for enhancing digital rights and inclusion within the African continent and beyond.  

“In this 8th edition, PIN looks forward to co-hosting 12 in-person DRIF21 sessions with 13 partners in the following countries; Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Chad, Nigeria, Namibia, Cameroon, Zambia, and the Central African Republic”, says PIN Community Manager, Thobekile Matimbe. “This will be an extraordinary platform so timely in these COVID-19 times when deliberations on digital rights and inclusion have become most urgent”, she added. 

DRIF21 will commence with a Virtual Open Day on April, 12th 2021, followed by a series of in-person sessions, and end with virtual closing sessions on April 28th, 29th, and 30th, 2021. This will be a distributed multi-country festival!

Paradigm Initiative is pleased to announce its partnership with the following organisations hosting in-person sessions for DRIF21; 

Digital Shelter in Somalia, Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organisations in Ethiopia, Digital Human Rights Lab in Uganda, Koneta Initiative in South Sudan, Zaina Foundation in Tanzania, Internet Society Chad Chapter, Conseil des Panafricanistes du Tchad in Chad, Namibia Digital Foundation in Namibia, Internet pour tous en Centrafrique in Central African Republic, TechHerNigeria, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, A&E Law Partnership and Edunovative Concept, and Consultancy in Nigeria. In-person sessions will only be attended by a limited number of participants within the specific countries in line with COVID-19 in-country guidelines and live-streamed on social media platforms. In extending the DRIF21 conversations globally, PIN is also excited to partner with a diverse range of virtual session hosts including Media Defence, the Global Network Initiative, AIRA, CIPESA, and the University of Connecticut Human Rights Institute. 

PIN invites diverse businesses, civil society, the technical community, academia, government, and private sector to register to attend these enriching engagements on the following platform https://drif.paradigmhq.org/registration/. 

For inquiries on attending in-person country sessions, please email drif@paradigmhq.org

 

Press Release: Paradigm Initiative Condemns Uganda Internet Shutdown.

By | Press Release

Paradigm Initiative condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the directive by the Uganda Communications Commission ordering a temporary “Suspension of the Operation of Internet Gateways” allegedly in the exercise of its functions, under Sections 5(1) and 56 of the Uganda Communications Act of 2013. As a result of this directive, major internet service providers such as MTN and Airtel Uganda have issued communications to the effect that they have complied as ordered. 

As is now characteristic of African governments during elections and specifically on election day, it is unfortunate but not surprising that the Government of the Republic of Uganda elected to shut down the internet connectivity just a day before the general elections scheduled for the 14th of January 2021. 

This action to block internet access in Uganda is a blatant violation of regional and international standards on freedom of expression and access to information. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it glaring that internet access is an enabler for accessing health care and education. An attack on internet access is clearly a violation of human rights. Article 9 (1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights provides for access to information as the right to receive information and is echoed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under Article 19(2). The government of Uganda must promote access to information and freedom of expression through unhindered access to the internet. 

 In terms of Principle 37 of the Declaration of Principles On Freedom Of Expression And Access To Information In Africa States must facilitate the rights to freedom of expression and access to information online and the means necessary to exercise these rights and must recognise that universal, equitable, affordable and meaningful access to the internet is necessary for the realisation of freedom of expression, access to information and the exercise of other human rights. Furthermore, PIN calls on the government of Uganda to adhere to the objective of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance under Article 2(10) to promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and accountability in the management of public affairs. An open internet will ensure this compliance as well as the promotion of human rights under article 4 of the same. 

We urge the Ugandan authorities to respect their citizens’ right to, among others, access to information as guaranteed by the relevant Ugandan laws as well as the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. 

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.

Paradigm Initiative calls for Stakeholders Input Into Draft Tanzania’s Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill, 2020.

By | Press Release

Pan-African Digital Rights organization, Paradigm Initiative has called for input to a draft Internet Rights Bill for Tanzania. The bill which is an outcome of a series of capacity-building workshops among digital rights stakeholders in Tanzania including lawyers, academics, the media, members of the civil society among others, was modeled after the Nigerian Digital Rights and Freedom Bill. In the interaction with the stakeholders, it became evident that there is an urgent need to create an empowered citizenry and digital rights community that can work with the government of the Republic of Tanzania to safeguard citizens’ digital rights. In addition to the existing cyber-related laws in the country such as the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) and the Cybercrimes Act, Paradigm Initiative identified the need and saw it necessary to not only initiate but also provide technical support to the process of the enactment of a Digital Rights law in Tanzania. This Bill seeks to protect internet users in Tanzania from infringement of their fundamental freedoms and to guarantee the application of human rights for users of digital platforms and/or digital media.

The discussions around the Bill kicked off in earnest during a Civil Society and Media Forum that Paradigm Initiative organized in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in August 2020 with support from Counterpart International. The zero drafts of the Bill is ready for scrutiny and submission of comments by the members of the public and other stakeholders in Tanzania. We expect that stakeholders in Tanzania will be able to analyze and articulate digital rights issues in their country in this Bill thus improving the quality and the relevance of the draft bill to the Tanzanian context. It is our ardent hope that our intervention in Tanzania through leading the drafting of this bill will be accorded with the necessary stakeholder support and we look forward to engaging entities such as the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority and the parliament who are very crucial to the objective of the bill as part of the process.

Call for Input – Tanzania Bill on Digital Rights: CLICK HERE

Paradigm Initiative Applauds MTN Group Limited for Releasing First Transparency Report

By | Press Release

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) welcomes the recently released MTN Group Limited Transparency Report. This is a milestone as MTN Group Limited has broken new ground by being the first African technology company to release a transparency report.  MTN is a critical digital operator with over 250 million customers across 21 emerging markets in Africa and the Middle East. It looks at MTN’s operating environment, presents the MTN digital human rights policy, and provides a strategy and sustainability framework. Notably, the transparency report embraces a digital human rights approach for the conduct of business.

 

 

According to Thobekile Matimbe, Paradigm Initiative’s Community Manager, PIN recently joined in a civil society open letter to the new MTN Chief Executive Officer, Ralph Mupita congratulating him on his new appointment and calling for transparency of the leading internet service provider in line with the  African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (the African Declaration). The release of the report has been long-awaited and comes against the backdrop of an African continent where there is a need for an enabling environment for the enjoyment of internet freedoms. MTN is a big part of that process. “As a leading internet service provider in Africa, MTN has embraced human rights guidelines for conducting business. This is critical and hopefully, other internet service providers in Africa can follow this precedent,” she said.

 

 

Over the years, MTN has been in the spotlight for failing to exhibit transparency and adherence to international standards that promote access to information and freedom of expression online.  In 2019, PIN joined the civil society in calling for MTN to denounce an internet shutdown in Sudan. In view of the released transparency report, it is incumbent on civil society to continue to monitor adherence to the human rights policy presented by MTN. This is necessary for enhancing accountability and improving engagements.

 

MTN’s release of this transparency report has clearly set a standard that will be relied upon as a basic minimum to measure compliance across the African continent. We urge that going forward, MTN should continue to provide regular transparency reports, disclose its policies for responding to government’s data requests, orders to shut down services or degrade networks, to disclose its policies on privacy, and regularly engage civil society, including in difficult situations when government requests may be unlawful. We call on all other internet service providers operating in Africa to provide regular transparency reports in keeping with upholding digital rights.

Paradigm Initiative Says Digital Rights are Human Rights, Launches Digital Rights Toolkit

By | Press Release

This year, International Human Rights Day is commemorated under the theme: Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights! Paradigm Initiative joins the world to commemorate this day, reflecting on the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Because everyone is human, they are entitled to inalienable rights such as the right to life, human dignity, and equality. During the COVID-19 pandemic which constituted most of the challenges faced within countries across the globe, lives were lost and the right to health and education became a priority for human rights protection. In Africa, many were left behind in accessing education and health care following the exposition of inefficient healthcare systems and technology deficient education sectors.

In a UN/DESA Policy Brief #61: COVID-19: Embracing digital government during the pandemic and beyond, governments were urged to deploy effective digital technologies to contain the outbreak. It was highlighted that the crisis has exposed the need for government leadership in the development and adoption of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to ensure an effective provision of public services. The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of technology, but also the pivotal role of an effective, inclusive, and accountable government. The United Nations has highlighted that information and communication technologies have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. The crisis has accelerated the digitalization of many businesses and services, including teleworking and video conferencing systems in and out of the workplace, as well as access to healthcare, education, and essential goods and services.

According to PIN Community Manager, Thobekile Matimbe, as we reflect on our fundamental rights and freedoms, it is critical to highlight that digital rights are human rights. Digital rights are the rights that have enabled education in our African countries and provided a platform for the enjoyment of quality life. As we embrace the new normal, we urge African States to ensure better recovery from the effects of the pandemic by embracing technology and enabling internet access to marginalized communities and vulnerable groups, she added.

In ensuring that information relevant to human rights protection is accessible, PIN reminds African States to adhere to Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Principle 37 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the declaration) which provides that States shall facilitate the rights to freedom of expression and access to information online and the means necessary to exercise these rights. States are also called to recognize that universal, equitable, affordable and meaningful access to the internet is necessary for the realization of freedom of expression, access to information, and the exercise of other human rights. The declaration further states that in providing access to the internet, States shall take specific measures to ensure that marginalized groups have an effective exercise of their rights online as well as adopt laws, policies, and other measures to promote affordable access to the internet for children that equip them with digital literacy skills for online education and safety, protect them from online harm and safeguards their privacy and identity.

During the pandemic and beyond, it is pertinent that discrimination and inequalities are left behind in favor of a bridged digital divide and closed inequality gap. PIN is ever ready to partner with governments and the private sector to ensure we recover better during the pandemic.

To celebrate the day and bring the theme to life, PIN is launching a digital rights toolkit for human rights and other civil society actors. In a comment by PIN’s Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan, “PIN and its partners are launching Ayeta, a Digital Rights Toolkit to prepare civil society actors for when their work puts them in harm’s way. The virtual launch will hold at 11 am GMT, on December 10, and you can join the event by signing up at https://bit.ly/AyetaLaunch. Recent events across Africa, some of which are captured in our upcoming Digital Rights and Inclusion 2020 Report, make this year’s Human Rights Day theme a lot more apt and I hope that Ayeta proves to be a useful tool in digital rights protection.”

 

 

 

 

Déclaration conjointe en réponse aux perturbations d’Internet en Guinée

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

Déclaration conjointe en réponse aux perturbations d’Internet en Guinée

3 Novembre 2020

[See English translation after this text in French…]

Nous, les organisations soussignées, sommes préoccupées par les perturbations d’Internet en Guinée. En effet, le 24 octobre 2020, les réseaux de télécommunications en Guinée ont subi de graves perturbations. Selon l’observatoire d’Internet NetBlocks, «des perturbations sont observées au niveau national dans le service internet en Guinée depuis 7h30 (GMT) le (23 octobre 2020 ndlr), y compris sur Orange, premier réseau de téléphonie mobile du pays. Cet incident semble conforme aux restrictions imposées par le passé et assignées aux organes de contrôle de l’État lors des élections.” a rapporté Netblocks. Aussi, les perturbations mentionnées concernent l’internet et les appels internationaux en général.

Le 24 Octobre 2020, l’opérateur Orange a envoyé un message à ses abonnés sur la situation en s’excusant. Dans un communiqué de presse daté du 25 Octobre 2020, l’opérateur Orange a ensuite informé ses abonnés qu’il a enregistré une coupure d’internet. Nous nous rendons compte que ce n’est pas la première fois que la Guinée enregistre des perturbations d’Internet en 2020. Le 19 Mars 2020, Orange, MTN et Cellcom Guinée  ont averti leurs utilisateurs qu’un arrêt d’internet se produirait à une durée déterminée les 21 et 22 Mars 2020 pour une intervention de maintenance d’Orange Marine, une filiale de l’opérateur télécoms Orange. Cette annonce de la fermeture d’Internet et des travaux intervenait lors du référendum dans le pays, et était manifestement nuisible pour l’accès Internet des abonnés. 

Internet est essentiel pour la protection des droits de l’homme. Il fournit une plate-forme pour accéder à l’information, permet de jouir de la liberté d’expression, de réunion et d’association, entre autres droits. De plus, pendant la période de la pandémie du COVID-19, Internet a permis de faire l’expérience de l’éducation, des affaires et des loisirs; un rappel clair de l’importance de la liberté sur Internet. Nous appelons le gouvernement guinéen et les fournisseurs de services Internet à respecter les droits des citoyens d’accéder à Internet. Les interruptions d’Internet sont inutiles lorsqu’il n’y a pas de cause légitime. 

Nous sommes également préoccupés par la perturbation d’Internet qui s’est produite dans le contexte d’une élection présidentielle. Certaines des conséquences négatives sont une violation de la liberté d’expression, l’accès à l’information, les droits démocratiques et l’interruption des activités commerciales avec des répercussions financières en dehors du champ d’application des instruments régionaux et internationaux auxquels la Guinée est partie prenante. 

Nous rappelons au gouvernement de Guinée ses obligations en vertu du Pacte international relatif aux droits civils et politiques et de la Charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples de respecter la liberté d’expression et l’accès à l’information. En outre, le Principe 38 (2) de la Déclaration de principes sur la liberté d’expression et l’accès à l’information en Afrique indique clairement que les États ne s’engagent ni ne tolèrent aucune interruption de l’accès à Internet et aux autres technologies numériques pour des segments du public ou une population entière. 

Nous interpellons le gouvernement guinéen sur les principes (2) de la Déclaration africaine sur les droits et libertés d’Internet qui stipule que l’accès à Internet doit être disponible et abordable pour toutes les personnes en Afrique sans discrimination pour quelque motif que ce soit comme la race, la couleur, le sexe, la langue, la religion, l’opinion politique ou autre, l’origine nationale ou sociale, la propriété, la naissance ou tout autre statut. La perturbation d’Internet a un impact important sur les groupes vulnérables tels que les femmes et les personnes handicapées (PH). Aussi, les effets de la fermeture d’Internet peuvent avoir des effets négatifs de grande portée sur la manière dont les femmes utilisent Internet par rapport aux hommes, l’accès des femmes aux programmes de développement, et sapent encore davantage le rôle des femmes dans la contribution au développement national.

Nous appelons le gouvernement guinéen à mener les actions suivantes:

  • Restaurer entièrement la connexion Internet, les accès aux plateformes de médias sociaux et d’assurer le respect des libertés fondamentales conformément aux meilleures pratiques. 
  • S’engager pour la stabilité de la connexion Internet sur tout le territoire national pendant et après le processus électoral afin qu’internet soit d’utiliser comme instrument de promotion de la démocratie en Guinée.

Signé:

  1. Centre de soutien juridique (Gambie)
  2. Give1Project Gambia 
  3. Paradigm Initiative (PIN)
  4. Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)
  5. Institut des TIC pour le développement (INTIC4DEV) Togo-Bénin-Sénégal
  6. BudgIT Foundation, Nigéria

Joint Statement In Response to the Internet Disruptions in Guinea

3 November 2020

We, the undersigned organisations are concerned about internet disruptions in Guinea. On October 24, 2020, telecommunications networks in Guinea experienced severe disruption. According to the internet observatory NetBlocks, “disruptions are observed at the national level in the internet service in Guinea since 7:30 am (GMT) on (October 23, 2020 editor’s note), including on Orange, the country’s leading mobile telephone network. This incident appears to be consistent with restrictions imposed in the past and assigned to state oversight bodies during elections.” As reported by Netblocks, the disturbances mentioned concern the internet and international calls in general.

On October 24, 2020, the operator Orange sent a message to its subscribers on the internet situation advising they were investigating the matter. In a press release dated on October 25, 2020, the operator then informed its subscribers that it was experiencing a shutdown. We realise that this was not the first time that Guinea was experiencing internet disruptions in 2020. On March 19, 2020, Orange, MTN and Cellcom Guinea  warned their users that an internet shutdown would occur at designated times on March 21 and 22, 2020 for a maintenance intervention by Orange Marine, the subsidiary of the telecoms operator Orange. This announcement of the closure of the internet and work occurring during the referendum was clearly untimely and detrimental to internet access of subscribers. 

The internet is critical for the protection of human rights. It provides a platform for accessing information, enjoyment of freedom of expression, assembly and association among other rights. Moreso, now during the COVID-19 pandemic, the internet has enabled education, business and leisure to be experienced, a clear reminder of the importance of internet freedom. We call on the government of Guinea and internet service providers to respect the rights of its citizenry to access the internet. Internet disruptions are unnecessary  where there is no legitimate cause.  We are further concerned by the internet disruption which occurred against the backdrop of a presidential election. Some of the  adverse consequences are a violation of freedom of expression, access to information, democratic rights and the interruption of business activities with financial repercussions outside the scope of the regional and international instruments to which Guinea is a party to. 

We remind the government of Guinea of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to uphold freedom of expression and access to information. Furthermore, Principle 38 (2) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa clearly points out that  States shall not engage in or condone any disruption of access to the internet and other digital technologies for segments of the public or an entire population. 

We refer the government of Guinea to principles (2) of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms which states that access to the Internet should be available and affordable to all persons in Africa without discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.  Internet disruption highly impacts vulnerable groups such as women and persons with disabilities (PWDs). The effects of internet shutdown may have far-reaching negative effects on how women use the internet compared to men, women’s access to developmental programs, and further undermines the role of women in contributing to national development.

We call on  the government of Guinea to immediately do the following;

  • Fully restore internet connection and access to social media platforms and ensure respect for fundamental freedoms in accordance  with best practices. 
  • Commit to the stability of the internet connection throughout the national territory during and after the electoral process in order to use the Internet as an instrument for promoting democracy in Guinea.

Signed:

  1. Centre for Legal Support (Gambia)
  2. Give1Project Gambia 
  3. Paradigm Initiative (PIN)
  4. Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)
  5. Institut des TIC pour le développement (INTIC4DEV) Togo-Bénin-Sénégal
  6. BudgIT Foundation, Nigeria

Commemoration of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

By | Press Release

Commemoration of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

Press Release 2 November 2020

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) joins the world to commemorate International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. According to the UNESCO observatory of killed journalists in Africa, 145 journalists have been killed between 2010 and October 2020. Many more have been killed across the world. We condemn the inhuman and degrading treatment that journalists and media practitioners face globally and call for the respect for human dignity of all media practitioners.   

In the words of UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, when journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price. Without the ability to protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and contribute to decision-making is severely hampered. Without journalists able to do their jobs in safety, we face the prospect of a world of confusion and disinformation. In a global analysis in Safety of Journalists, on average, every five days a journalist is killed for bringing information to the public. Attacks on media professionals are often perpetrated in non-conflict situations by organised crime groups, militia, security personnel, and even local police, making local journalists among the most vulnerable. These attacks include murder, abductions, harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest, and arbitrary detention.

It is most urgent that governments across the world take stock of their human rights record in relation to journalists, said Paradigm Initiative’s Community Manager, Thobekile Matimbe. Without journalists, there is no information for the world to get protection for human rights. Not only for the citizenry, governments need critical information on the lived experiences globally. It is time that journalists perform their mandate without fear of reprisals. Protection of journalists as they perform their duties offline and online is important to keep the truth alive. 

We call for the release of imprisoned journalists like Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi who were jailed on charges against state security for performing their mandate in Burundi, and the dropping of unwarranted charges against journalists like Hopewell Chin’ono in Zimbabwe. In a  report  by CPJ, there were 26 journalists in custody in Egypt as of 2019. In 2020, several journalists have been arrested since March over their reporting on coronavirus. Egyptian journalist Mohamed Monir died from complications due to COVID-19 contracted while he was held in pretrial detention. During the pandemic, it is most pertinent that unwarranted charges against journalists are dropped.

We remind African States to comply with their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and governing national constitutions in as far as they guarantee media freedoms.

We urge African States to follow the guidance in Principle 20 of the of the  Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, to guarantee the safety of journalists and media practitioners and to take effective legal and other measures to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, and ensure that victims have access to effective remedies.

It is critical for governments to ensure that perpetrators of impunity against journalists are made to account.  We call for a safe and favorable environment enabling journalists to perform their mandate without fear or reprisals. 

Paradigm Initiative déplore la coupure d’internet en Guinée

By | Press Release

[Yaoundé, 26 Octobre 2020] –  Depuis le 24 octobre 2020 en Guinée, les réseaux de télécommunications ont connu de fortes perturbations. Selon l’observatoire internet de NetBlocks, « des perturbations au niveau national dans le service internet en Guinée depuis 07h30 (GMT) le (23 octobre 2020 ndlr), y compris sur Orange, premier réseau de téléphonie mobile du pays. Cet incident semble cohérent avec les restrictions imposées par le passé et attribuées aux organes de contrôle étatiques pendant les élections », a expliqué Alp Toker, le directeur exécutif de NetBlocks.  Selon les données fournies par Netblocks, les perturbations mentionnées concernent l’Internet et les appels internationaux en général.

Le 24 octobre 2020 l’opérateur Orange a adressé un message à ses abonnés sur la situation de l’internet: « Bonjour. Un incident a été constaté sur nos sorties à l’international impactant plusieurs de nos services. Des investigations sont en cours. Orange s’en excuse. » 

Dans un communiqué de presse du 25 octobre 2020, l’Opérateur « Orange informe son aimable clientèle qu’il assiste depuis à une coupure depuis 72 heures, sans aucun préavis de ses sorties à l’international au niveau de Guilab ».

A titre de rappel, le 19 mars 2020, Orange, MTN et Cellcom Guinée avaient prévenu leurs utilisateurs qu’une coupure du réseau internet allait intervenir de 1 heure du matin à 13 heures le 21 mars et de 1 heure à 9 heures le 22 mars  2020 pour une intervention de maintenance de Orange Marine, la filiale de l’opérateur télécoms Orange. Cette annonce de fermeture d’internet et de travaux intervenant en période du référendum contesté dans le pays. Ces travaux avaient été repoussés quelques jours avant la date butoir. 

Au regard du contexte socio-politique que traverse le pays, Paradigm Initiative se dit profondément préoccupée par la stabilité de l’Internet en Guinée, et invite le gouvernement, les opérateurs de téléphonie, les fournisseurs et toutes les parties prenantes de l’écosystème Internet à respecter les engagements vis-à-vis de la protection des droits des utilisateurs Déclaration Africaine des Droits et Libertés de l’Internet, déclaration africaine sur la gouvernance de l’Internet, et tous les autres principes du respect des droits de l’homme en ligne.

Paradigm Initiative est profondément préoccupée par la coupure d’Internet en pleine élection présidentielle. Cette coupure porte une grave atteinte à la liberté d’expression, l’accès à l’information et est une violation de tous les instruments nationaux et internationaux auxquels la Guinée est partie prenante notamment, la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme, le Pacte International relatif aux Droits Civils et Politiques et le Principe clé (2) et (4) de la Déclaration Africaine des Droits et Libertés de l’Internet ».

Les autorités guinéennes doivent rétablir immédiatement la connexion à Internet et l’accès aux plateformes de médias sociaux et veiller au respect de la liberté d’expression, d’association et d’opinion en ligne conformément aux normes internationales. 

Nous invitons également le gouvernement guinéen et tous les acteurs de la gouvernance de l’Internet en Guinée à plus de responsabilités et s’engager pour la stabilité de la connexion Internet sur l’ensemble du territoire national pendant et après le processus électoral afin d’utiliser Internet comme un instrument de promotion de la démocratie en Guinée.

Burundi: 65 organizations call for immediate release of Iwacu journalists

By | Press Release

On the first anniversary of their arrest, 65 organizations call for the immediate and unconditional release of the Iwacu journalists Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi who were convicted on charges against state security for simply doing their job. Their continued detention on baseless charges is a stark reminder that, despite a recent change in leadership, the Burundian government has little tolerance for independent journalism and free speech, the organizations said.

On 22 October 2019, the four journalists were arrested along with their driver Adolphe Masabarakiza as they went to report on clashes between the security forces and an armed group in Bubanza province. Although they had informed the provincial authorities of their plan to travel to the area, they were arrested on arrival and later accused of threatening internal state security. However, during the trial, the prosecution presented no evidence of the journalists having any contact with the armed group.

Although they were charged with complicity in threatening the internal security of the state, Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi were ultimately convicted of attempting to commit the crime, a lesser criminal offense. Their lawyers say that they were not informed of the change to the charge prior to the verdict or allowed to defend themselves against it in court, violating fair trial standards. All four were sentenced to two and a half years in prison and fined one million Burundian francs (approximately 525 USD). Masabarakiza, who had been provisionally released in November 2019, was acquitted. Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi appealed their conviction, but in its 4 June decision the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal upheld the verdict.

The message sent by the courts is an attempt to intimidate and threaten other journalists from doing their work and reporting on what is happening inside the country, the organizations said. The conviction and continued detention of the four journalists also runs counter to Burundi’s constitutional guarantees on freedom of expression, as well as regional and international obligations in accordance with Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is particularly inconsistent with the African Commission’s 2019 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, which specifically provides that states shall take measures to prevent “arbitrary arrest and detention” of journalists.

Iwacu is one of the few remaining independent media houses operational in Burundi. Hundreds of journalists and human rights defenders have fled the country since the start of the political crisis in 2015 and those still working in the country often face threats and harassment. Releasing Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi would be an important first step towards reopening civic space and recognizing the contribution of reliable media reporting in ensuring access to information for all Burundians.

Signatories:

  1. ACAT-Burundi (Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture)
  2. Amnesty International
  3. ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa
  4. Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH)
  5. Association des journalistes indépendants du Bénin
  6. Bloggers Association of Kenya
  7. Burundi Human Rights Initiative
  8. Cellule Norbert Zongo pour le journalisme d’investigation en Afrique de l’Ouest
  9. Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy
  10. CNCD-11.11.11
  11. Coalition Burundaise des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme
  12. Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)
  13. Coalition de la Société Civile pour le Monitoring Electoral (COSOME)
  14. Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
  15. Collectif des Avocats pour la défense des victimes de crimes de droit international commis au Burundi (CAVIB)
  16. Committee to Protect Journalists
  17. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization-CEPO, South Sudan
  18. Congress of African Journalists
  19. Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO)
  20. Defend Defenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  21. Eastern Africa Journalists Network (EAJN)
  22. European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)
  23. Fédération internationale des ACAT (FIACAT)
  24. Federation of African Journalists (FAJ)
  25. Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ)
  26. FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  27. Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE)
  28. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC)
  29. The Ghanaian PEN Centre
  30. Human Rights Network for Journalists- Uganda
  31. Human Rights Watch
  32. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  33. Kenya Correspondents Association
  34. Kenya Editors’ Guild
  35. Kenya Union of Journalists
  36. Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative (LRAI)
  37. Ligue Burundaise des droits de l’homme Iteka
  38. Ligue des journalistes Tchadiens (LJT)
  39. La Maison de la presse du Niger
  40. Media Council of Tanzania
  41. Media Institute of Southern Africa
  42. Mouvement des Femmes et Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité au Burundi (MFFPS)
  43. Mouvement Inamahoro Femmes & Filles pour la Paix & la Securite
  44. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Uganda
  45. Observatoire de la lutte contre la corruption et les malversations économiques (OLUCOME)
  46. Ökumenisches Netz Zentralafrika (ÖNZ)
  47. One Day Seyoum
  48. OpenNet Africa
  49. Organisation Patronale des Médias du Gabon (OPAM)
  50. Paradigm Initiative
  51. PEN International
  52. PEN Nigeria
  53. PEN South Africa
  54. PEN Zimbabwe
  55. Reporters sans Frontières (RSF)
  56. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP)
  57. SOS-Torture/Burundi
  58. Syndicat National des Journalistes Indépendants du Togo (SYNJIT)
  59. Syndicat Professionnels Information Communication Sénégal (Synpics)
  60. Tournons la Page – Burundi
  61. Tournons la Page International
  62. TRIAL International
  63. Ugandan PEN
  64. Union Burundaise des Journalistes
  65. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
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