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Coalition Statement On Emerging Legislations on “Fake News” and Hate Speech in Africa

By | Press Release

We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our concern over the increasing trend of draft legislation on hate speech and “fake news” in the region. Many African governments have begun to draft legislation on these issues without regard to their obligations to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to protect the right of everyone to freedom of opinion and expression.

Article 19 includes the right to receive and impart, regardless of frontiers, information, and ideas through any media whatsoever. It is our position that the ongoing attempts to regulate the use of social media through overarching draft legislation with broad terms serve to decrease the openness of the internet and these draft legislations mask human rights violations and create barriers to long-term stability and peaceful dialogue.

Nigeria 

There has been an onslaught of anti-democratic draft bills in Nigeria within the past few months. In October, the Nigerian Senate introduced the Communication Service Tax Bill sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Nigerian Army. The Bill proposes a monthly tax burden on users of electronic communications services including services such as voice calls, SMS, MMS, pay-per-view services, and internet communication services. 

In November, the Senate introduced the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019 sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa. This bill seeks to regulate communications in cyberspace. The Senator mentioned that the Bill is being presented for ‘patriotic Nigerians’ who want peace for the country. The Bill punishes the transmission of false facts online, the provision of services to transmit falsehood, and the failure of firms and telcos to check abuses via their platforms. 

Another Bill that has raised concerns of pro-democratic organizations and citizens alike is The National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill 2019 also introduced in November. The Bill seeks to establish an Independent National Commission for Hate Speech, which would be empowered to enforce the laws and advise the federal government. The Bill prescribes a range of punishments including death by hanging for perpetrators of hate speech. The danger of the passage of this bill and the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill is even more amplified by the flagrant treatment of critical or dissident speech as hate speech by government officials in Nigeria. 

Despite strong criticism, Nigeria’s Information minister insists the country will go ahead with proposed social media regulation through amendments to the country’s Broadcasting Code to regulate online mediums. Civil society organizations working in Nigeria have expressed concerns that the ministry is using the broadcasting code, which is secondary legislation as a decoy to avoid public scrutiny on the proposed amendments.

Ethiopia

On the weekend of November 9, 2019, the cabinet of Ethiopia approved a new bill, called the Computer Crime Proclamation Bill that aims to prevent hate speech and dissemination of fake news, and referred the same to the House of Peoples Representatives for approval. The bill has not yet been made public, however, judging from the trend of internet controls in Ethiopia including the history of internet shutdowns, it can be deduced that one of the components that the law will touch on will be speech online including platforms such as Facebook and blogs, among others. Ethiopia is set for elections next year in May, hence the bill may become a weapon to silence dissent. 

Cameroon

At the beginning of the parliamentary session in November 2019, the Cameroonian government presented a bill in parliament that seeks to criminalize hate speech and tribalism. The bill, which criminalises and punishes the act through the amendment of section 241 of the penal code, was tabled Wednesday, November 13, 2019, at the National Assembly for prior consideration. The first paragraph of the Explanatory Memorandum states that “the amendment of this provision is now necessary in order to discourage the rise of hate speech of a tribalist and communitarian nature in the public space, particularly on social media, which endanger peace, security and national cohesion.” 

The Gambia

In The Gambia, while the cabinet responded to criticism and announced the removal of provisions that sought to criminalize insults in its revised criminal offenses bill,  it must also take similar steps to revise the Gambia Media Services Bill, which has been criticized as targeting journalists and their ability to do their work. This must also include every other legislation which emboldened dictatorships in its recent past. The Gambia must not reverse on the gains of its last election and should work with all stakeholders to review its laws in such a way as to emphasize its commitment to strong democratic principles. 

The Way Forward

On July 1, 2016, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in Geneva, in which the Council affirms that human rights that apply in the non-virtual world must be applied with the same strength in cyberspace. Above all, the Council strongly condemns “the intentional measures to prevent or disrupt access or sharing information online.” While hate speech and fake news are global realities, efforts by the State to address the issues must take into consideration, their commitments to human rights obligations. It is imperative that States at this stage respect their obligations to respect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and the press. 

We hereby call on the respective policy-making institutions and agencies in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Nigeria, and other African countries that are considering similar rights-hurting bills, to take steps to discontinue and drop all draft legislations with provisions that would negatively impact how people participate online and use digital platforms. We encourage States to adopt an open process that accommodates the views of everyone, especially civil society, towards the enactment of new laws or revision of existing ones, and ensure draft legislation does not have the potential to infringe on the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. It is important that such proposals must provide for targeted judicial oversight, as safeguards are essential to prevent unaccountable and overzealous censorship.

Also, we call on the United Nations and African regional organizations such as the African Union, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and others, to prevail on States to stay true to their commitments to international obligations to protect the rights of their citizens at all times.

Signed

  1. African Academic Network on Internet Policy
  2. African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (AfDec)
  3. African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX)
  4. AfroLeadership, Cameroon
  5. Afrotribune, Togo
  6. Ayin Network – Sudan
  7. Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)
  8. BudgIT Foundation
  9. Center for Media Research – Nepal (CMR-Nepal)
  10. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  11. Civil Society Advocacy Network on Climate Change and the Environment – Sierra Leone (CAN-SL)
  12. Co-Creation Hub
  13. Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
  14. Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria
  15. Gambia Cyber Security Alliance
  16. Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
  17. Global Rights
  18. HipCity Innovation Center
  19. Index on Censorship
  20. Information Security for Africa (ISfA)
  21. Institut Panos Grands Lacs
  22. Internet Freedom Foundation
  23. Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan
  24. Internet Sans Frontiers
  25. ISOC Nigeria Chapter
  26. Jamii Forums, Tanzania
  27. KICTANet
  28. Ladies Empowerment Goals and Support Initiative (LEGASI)
  29. Liberia Information Technology student Union
  30. Media Matters for Democracy, Pakistan
  31. Media Monitoring Africa
  32. Media Rights Agenda
  33. Merit Legal Advocacy & Human Rights Initiative (MELAHRI)
  34. Molly Land, Professor of International law and human rights
  35. NetBlocks
  36. Nigeria Youth IGF
  37. Open Net Korea
  38. Paradigm Initiative
  39. PEN America
  40. Praxis Center
  41. Public and Private Development Centre
  42. Rwanda Clubs for Peace Organization
  43. Senegal ICT Users Association
  44. SMEX
  45. Take Back Nigeria Movement (TBN)
  46. TechHer
  47. The Right 2 Know Campaign
  48. Youth Initiative for Africa Development

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.

Paradigm Initiative urges Ethiopia to Keep the Internet On

By | Press Release

For immediate release, June 24 2019

 

Lagos, Arusha

 

On the 22nd of June 2019, Ethiopia experienced an attempted coup against the administration in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region. The failed coup in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara regional state government led to four people being killed, including Ethiopia’s Army Chief of Staff and regional governor Ambachew Mekonnen. The Prime Minister confirmed this on a press conference on the 23rd June where he urged the nation to unite and assured them that the situation was under control.The shooting in Bahir Dar occurred when the state president was holding a meeting to decide how to stop the recruitment of ethnic Amhara militias by Asamnew. In a video spread on Facebook a week earlier and seen by a Reuters reporter Asamnew had advised the Amhara people to arm themselves in preparation for fighting against other groups.

 

Director of Programs, Paradigm Initiative, Tope Ogundipe stated, ‘’Prior to the attempted coup there was an internet shutdown from 11 June 2019’’. According to NetBlocks on 14 June, 4:00 p.m. UTC the internet was partially restored, however national connectivity was unstable. Network data showed that messaging apps like Telegram remained restricted as of Friday 21 with no explanation as to why. It was also reported that Ethiopia’s internet was largely disconnected from Saturday evening 22 June 2019 during procession of attempted coup. Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern Africa, Rebecca Ryaktimbo, noted ‘’This leaves much to be desired; that there’s possibly more to the shutdown than meets the eye at this precise time in the transformation process of Ethiopia’’.

 

Ethiopia is not new to internet shutdowns it has been common to experience shutdowns during uncertain times and school examination periods. However since the onset of the new administration efforts have been made to reform Ethiopia’s human rights scope. Among the attempts of this current regime is the privatisation of the Telecom industry which is dominated by a state owned Telecom company. Earlier this month, Ethiopia’s parliament approved a draft law that enables foreign companies to invest in the telecommunications industry of Africa’s second-most populous nation.The legislation establishes an independent communications regulator, accountable to the prime minister, that will be responsible for promoting competition.The new law also says that ownership of telecoms companies “shall be open without limitation to private investors including both domestic investors and foreign investors”.

 

Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern Africa, Rebecca Ryakitimbo added, ‘’Now more than ever the government of Ethiopia needs to keep the digital space open, at a time of rebuilding the democratic landscape of the nation’’. This includes freedom of expression and access to information. She continued, ”While governments may think that throttling and keeping a tight leash on the internet may help to control narratives during crisis, this is not the case in fact it does not only damage the economy but further destroys the people’s trust in the system.” The growing ecosystem of technology and innovation in Ethiopia is not the only party to face turbulence when the internet is shutdown more so the end users who are building businesses, relationships and finding their voices and communities of trust online are at the receiving end of the consequences of a shutdown.  

 

For more information on this release please contact

Paradigm Initiative’s media office via media@paradigmhq.org

Paradigm Initiative Condemns Internet Disruption in Liberia

By | Press Release

Abuja, Nigeria

June 7 2019

 

It has come to the knowledge of Paradigm Initiative that popular social media platforms in Liberia such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been blocked and cannot be accessed in Liberia.

Paradigm Initiative expressly condemns this act and declares that it is an affront to the freedom of expression and assembly amidst other civil liberties which belong to the citizens and residents of Liberia.

It is reported that the platforms have been blocked in reaction to the ongoing anti-government protests in the capital, Monrovia. The protests which have been tagged ‘Save The State’, were against the high inflation rates and corruption in the country.

Article 15 of the Liberia Constitution 1986 states that ‘Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression…’ and the act of blocking access to the internet or to social media platforms for whatever reason is a gross violation of citizens’ freedom of expression.

The government of Liberia must be aware of the social, cultural, educative and economic value and relevance of the Internet. Business and human lives thrive not only on communication but on other benefits provided by social media platforms and the internet, and to block access to same is to act tyrant and disregard the liberties of the people. Grave and serious legal and historic impacts will be occasioned as a result of the action of the Liberia government.

With one irrational action, the government of Liberia has successfully abused its citizens and residents of their rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, the right to learn, their right to access the internet and other freedoms and liberties connected to the use of the internet.

We hereby call on the Liberian government to restore access to all disrupted Internet services, and uphold all human rights of its citizens.

For more information on this release, please contact Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer via media@paradigmhq.org

Paradigm Initiative condemns NBC’s violation of Press Freedom in Nigeria

By | Press Release

Abuja, Nigeria
June 7 2019

 

Paradigm Initiative vehemently condemns the action of the National Broadcasting Commission in stifling free expression and the freedom of the press by revoking the license of broadcasting channel, AIT/RayPower for clearly undemocratic reasons.

The NBC claims that its monitoring reports reveal that the Station is inundated with content of a divisive nature from bloggers and social media. But what the Commission fails to recognize and understand is that the Press has the freedom to report expressions by citizens, just the same way citizens have the freedom to express opinions – however controversial.

If a broadcasting channel raises an opinion expressed by a third party, reports on it and receives comments on same, such a broadcasting channel is well within its rights and duties. It is, therefore, unethical and clearly biased of the National Broadcasting Commission to revoke the license of AIT/RayPower on this ground.

The NBC states that it is disturbed with ‘the manner in which social media issues became part of the mainstream media unedited on AIT/RayPower…’ but the Commission should know that opinions of third parties cannot and should not be edited (at least in content) in reportage. The Commission’s concern is therefore antithetical to free speech.

In its most basic form, the freedom of expression and of the press in Nigeria allows for every person to be entitled to free expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

Expressions such as ‘Nigeria irritates me’ or ‘Nigeria is cursed’ may not be the most pleasant or agreeable expressions. But they remain opinions made by people within their rights. And what is a Broadcasting entity if it cannot report opinions, activities, or expression of citizens?

Paradigm Initiative wishes to inform the NBC that revoking the license of one of the few private mainstream broadcasting channels, and for muddy, unfounded and undemocratic reasons, is highly suggestive of bias by the Regulator. We, therefore, recommend that the Shut Down Order against AIT/RayPower and the suspension of the licence of Daar Communications be cancelled and the licence restored.

Les autorités du Cameroun doivent veiller au respect des droits du journaliste et lanceur d’alerte Paul Chouta

By | Press Release

Yaoundé 30 Mai 2019

 

Paradigm Initiative a appris avec beaucoup de regret la procédure arbitraire ayant conduit à l’arrestation et à la détention du lanceur d’alerte et journaliste Camerounais, Paul Chouta, le mardi 28 mai 2019.

Arrêté dans la nuit du mardi 28 mai 2019 au quartier Biyem-Assi  (Yaoundé) par six (06) policiers habillés en civil sur une plainte de l’écrivaine Callixte Beyala pour diffamation, le journaliste de l’un des sites d’information les plus  visités du pays, CamerounWeb, a été auditionné toute la journée d’hier mercredi et sera présenté devant la parquet le vendredi 31 mai 2019 selon la presse locale. Sa défense est assurée par Me Emmanuel Simh.

Paradigm Initiative souhaite porter à l’attention de l’opinion nationale et internationale que cette procédure d’arrestation qui s’apparente à un enlèvement est en violation des articles 31 et 118 (alinéas 1 et 2) du code de procédure pénale en vigueur au Cameroun.

Cette arrestation est par ailleurs, une atteinte grave à la liberté  d’expression en violation de la Constitution de 1996 et de la résolution adoptée en 2016 par la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (CADHP)  qui impose aux Etats de “respecter et protéger le droit des citoyens à la liberté d’information et d’expression par l’accès aux services de l’Internet”.

Nous appelons les autorités camerounaises aux respects des droits de M. Paul Chouta en tant que citoyen et journaliste ainsi qu’au respect des procédures prévues par la loi pour lui permettre de s’expliquer sur les accusations portées à son encontre.

 

A propos de Paradigm Initiative

Paradigm Initiative est une entreprise sociale qui favorise l’inclusion numérique par les TICs et défend les droits numériques afin d’améliorer les moyens de subsistance des jeunes défavorisés. À travers nos bureaux au Nigéria (Aba, Abuja, Ajegunle, Kano et Yaba), au Cameroun, au Togo, en Zambie et en Tanzanie, nous travaillons au renforcement des droits numériques et à l’inclusion numérique en Afrique.

Guinée : Paradigm Initiative prévient le gouvernement des effets négatifs des coupures d’Internet

By | Press Release

Lomé, 30 Mai 2019

Paradigm Initiative est préoccupé par les dernières recommandations issues des ateliers régionaux préparatoires des examens nationaux session 2019 en Guinée qui préconisent l’interruption des réseaux sociaux durant plusieurs jours sur toute l’étendue du territoire.

La rencontre annuelle des cadres des structures centrales et déconcentrées, ainsi que des partenaires sociaux de l’éducation en marge des préparatifs des examens nationaux a préconisé entre autres mesures pour la tenue des examens de fin d’années dans de bonnes conditions, l’interruption des réseaux sociaux ( messenger, Imo, WhatsApp, Facebook, viber et Instagram ) de 9h à 16h jusqu’à la fin des évaluations.

Cette recommandation faite au ministre de l’enseignement par les participants de la rencontre annuelle tenue à Mamou risque de restreindre la liberté d’expression à des millions d’internautes guinéens en violation de la Constitution du pays ainsi qu’à la résolution adoptée en 2016 par la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuple (CADHP) dont le Guinée est Etat partie.

Au-delà, cette restriction pourrait avoir des répercussions économiques sérieuses sur l’économique guinéenne comme ce fut le cas dans d’autres pays comme la République Démocratique du Congo en 2017 ou au Tchad en 2016.

Les restrictions d’Internet observés dans ces pays ont occasionné des pertes estimées respectivement à 46 millions de dollars (environ plus de 27 milliards de FCFA) et à 18 millions d’euros (environ 13 milliards de FCFA).

Paradigm Initiative, exhorte les autorités guinéennes au respect des engagements juridiques auxquels elles ont souscrites en évitant une coupure d’Internet et/ou des réseaux sociaux qui serait à tous points préjudiciables au peuple guinéen.

A propos de Paradigm Initiative

Paradigm Initiative est une entreprise sociale qui favorise l’inclusion numérique par les TICs et défend les droits numériques afin d’améliorer les moyens de subsistance des jeunes défavorisés. À travers nos bureaux au Nigéria (Aba, Abuja, Ajegunle, Kano et Yaba), au Cameroun, au Togo, en Zambie et en Tanzanie, nous travaillons au renforcement des droits numériques et à l’inclusion numérique en Afrique.

#DRIF19: Delegates Call for Renewed Action to Protect Digital Rights in Africa

By | Advocacy, Press Release

Delegates at the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum have expressed concern at the spate of violation of human rights online on the African continent, calling for renewed action to protect the digital space from rights violations.

The delegates were speaking at the 3-day Forum which held in Lagos, Nigeria, from April 23-25 and welcomed delegates and speakers from across Africa and beyond. The Forum provides a platform for conversations on efforts to ensure human rights online are not violated and that more people in Africa are connected to the internet.

Anriette Esterhuysen, the former executive director of the Association for Progressive Communications, in her submission, argued that the internet has to be protected and remain open as “it is the usually the only means of expression for some minority groups to access information on issues that are not openly discussed.”

Grace Githaiga, the co-convener of KICKTANET said, despite the challenges facing the digital rights space on the continent including internet shutdown, harassment of internet users and online journalists, and lack of data protection laws in many countries, “advocates should celebrate the positive- good laws, initiatives, and partners that allow us to meet and remaining optimistic of a better future.”

This came on the backdrop of conversation on internet censorship that has rocked the continent over the last few years. Africa now leads with the highest number of countries shutting down the internet or restricting service. In Chad, for example, social media has been shut down by the government for over a year now. In 2019 alone, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe and DR Congo have either shut down the internet or restricted access to services.

Speaking on the challenges facing efforts to improve internet penetration, Funke Opeke, the chief executive of MainOne Cable, emphasised the need for government to partner the private sector instead of constituting itself as a stumbling block to expand internet access. She said governments in other climes “create the right incentives and structures to facilitate access to the internet, especially in the rural areas. Dr Ernest Ndukwe, a former chief executive of the Nigerian Communication Commission, also urged civil society and active citizens “to focus more attention on what government can do to ensure people have access.”

The Forum also explored the state of data protection and privacy laws on the continent. Ephraim Kenyanito of Article 19 and Morisola Alaba of Media Rights Agenda, while speaking on the new 5G technology, said there was an urgent need to have data privacy legislation as the technology made its way to the continent, saying the technical capabilities of 5G could allow for greater surveillance capacities for repressive governments.

The tone for the Forum was set by the Opening Panel which was moderated by ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative and featured Hawa Ba, the Head of Senegal Office of Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Segun Mausi, Head of Africa division at Human Rights Watch, and a Emmanuella Darkwah who was representing Ghana’s National Security Advisor.

The Panel explored the centrality of human rights to modern society and the need to dedicate resources and attention to the protection of human rights. Hawa Ba highlighted the crucial role the internet has played in public education and mobilisation in Senegal and said it was important to ensure the internet remained an open and safe platform. Mausi Segun said all internet users have a duty to fight for the protection of digital rights and to make sure their government enables internet access for more citizens.

While according to Ghana’s Emmanuella Darkwah, Ghana was working on “ensuring internet and digital rights are encompassed in future laws” and, to among things, “make internet shutdown impossible in the country.”

Delegates from

 Togo, Chad and Cameroon bemoaned the ease with which their governments shut down the internet and specific internet services. In Chad, a delegate reported, social media platforms have been unavailable for over a year now, making life unnecessarily harder for the people of the country.

In his closing remarks, ‘Gbenga Sesan urged delegates to go back to their countries with a renewed energy to contribute to efforts to keep the internet safe and open to all users, saying “digital rights advocates are in the business of not minding our businesses. We have no choice but to be involved in efforts that help protect the internet, and to resist action that endangers human rights online.”

#DRIF19 is the seventh edition of the Forum which is convened annually to provide an “important platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped, and policy directions forged.” The Forum, organised by Paradigm Initiative and supported by Google, Ford Foundation, and Heinrich Böll Stiftung, welcomed delegates from 38 countries.

**

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

Paradigm Initiative Condemns the Arrest and Deportation of Wakabi by Tanzanian Authorities

By | Press Release, Uncategorized

Paradigm Initiative condemns the arrest, detention and subsequent deportation of the executive director of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Dr Wairagala Wakabi by Tanzanian authorities.

Dr Wakabi was arrested, detained and detained upon arrival in Tanzania yesterday, April 25. According to a statement released by CIPESA, Dr Wakabi was in Tanzania to participate in the annual commemoration of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders’ Day on the invitation of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC). Dr Wakabi is a renowned human rights advocate and researcher and we believe that his unacceptable treatment in Tanzania is a further indication of Tanzania’s increasingly hostile attitude to the human rights community.

This is not the first time that Tanzania has mistreated human rights advocates. In November 2018, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists Africa program coordinator Angela Quintal and sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumowere were arrested, detained and deported from the country with the false claim that the duo were in Tanzania without proper visas. Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) had previously expressed concern over the arrest of other 11 human rights activists in Tanzania. Tanzanian police have accused of raiding a legal consultation meeting, convened by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (Isla) and Community Health Services and Advocacy (Chesa), in Dar es Salaam. 

The continued assault on activists and advocates is unacceptable and we call on the African Union and other regional bodies to prevail on the Tanzanian government to respect the fundamental human rights of its citizens and guests. Paradigm Initiative asks the government to immediately address its shameful treatment of Dr Wakabi. It is in the government’s own best interest to acknowledge human rights defenders as viable stakeholders in democratic spaces and that civic spaces are a natural extension of the community that must be nurtured not crushed.

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