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Paradigm Initiative to host digital rights workshop in Zambia

By | Press Release

Paradigm Initiative will be hosting the Southern African Digital Rights Workshop in Lusaka, Zambia. The interactive workshop will take place over the course of two days from the 18th to 19th of October 2018, introducing participants to the basic concepts of Digital Rights. This is according to a statement signed by the social enterprise’s communications officer, Sodiq Alabi.

According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy for East and Southern Africa, “the purpose of the workshop is to create an empowered Civil Society digital rights community for Southern Africa that is able to  defend and advocate for digital rights in the region, as part of a Pan-African coalition.”

“The media will also be trained to competently report on digital rights issues in the region. The end goal of the workshop is to ensure that legislators, after interacting with trained Civil Society Organizations and media that understand and follow current trends in digital rights they will be able to analyse and articulate digital rights issues in their respective countries thus improving the quality of parliamentary debates on the issues,” Ndungu added.

Representatives from government and law enforcement will gain insights and thus employ them when making policy. They will b able to formulate policy from an informed position.

In attendance will be representatives from Civil Society, Government, Private Sector, Media and Law Enforcement. They will be coming from Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and the host country Zambia.

Speaking on the development, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe, said  “during the workshop and after we will create a Southern African Digital Rights Strategy and come up with ways to empower more individuals in the Digital Rights sphere. This workshop is a significant step towards informing individuals in the Southern African region how they can influence Internet policy and avert further Digital Rights abuses in the region.”

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda

Rwanda Cartoon Ban an affront on free speech and press freedom- Paradigm Initiative

By | Press Release

 

Freedom of Expression is threatened in yet another Eastern African State as the Rwandan government makes the decision to ban cartoons. This decision came as part of the new amendments to The Rwandan Penal code.

In the new penal code cartoons that depict images of politicians in an unflattering manner that would, in turn, humiliate them.

According to this legislation, any person who, verbally, by gestures or threats, in writings or cartoons, humiliates a member of Parliament when exercising his/her mandate, a member of the Cabinet, security officers or any other person in charge of a public service in the performance or in connection with the performance of his/her duties, commits an offence.

Any person convicted of this is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and less than two years and a fine of not less than five hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 500,000) and not more than one million(FRW 1,000,000) Rwandan francs.

Moreover, if the cartoon targets a parliamentarian or top-ranking government official the penalty will be doubled. The law goes further by stating that any person who defames the president could also be jailed between five and seven years and fined 7 million francs. Editing images or statements in bad faith without stating it wasn’t the original version could also draw up to two million francs and a prison sentence of not more than one year.

Civil Society groups in Rwanda have accused the President, Paul Kagame of ruling Rwanda with an iron fist. They have expressed disappointment in him trying to limit the already gravely controlled freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in the East African state. In the recent past have faced intimidation, arbitrary arrests and whimsical jail terms.

According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern and Southern Africa, ” the new ban is another attempt by the Rwandan government to further control the democratic space. Its arbitrariness makes journalism a more dangerous trade in Rwanda while also creating a climate of fear in the country. The ban is an affront on free speech and press freedom and should be condemned by all lovers of freedom.”

“In the trade of journalism, cartoons are by nature humorous… leaders may perceive them negatively or as humiliating even when they’re not,” said the Executive Secretary of The Rwandan Journalists Association, Gonza Muganwa.

We call for the immediate review of this repressive legislation and restoration of the artistic expression to address national ills faced in the country.

Fellows and Paradigm Initiative Staff at the Orientation Program for 2018 Media Fellows

Experts Call for Improved Coverage of Digital Rights in the Media

By | Press Release

Digital Rights experts have called on media practitioners across Africa to focus media attention on digital rights violations on the continent. The experts made this call while speaking at the induction ceremony for the 2018 Digital Rights and Inclusion Fellows in Lagos at the headquarters of Paradigm Initiative.

Speaking at the induction, Sodiq Alabi, the Communications Officer of Paradigm Initiative, said “Undoubtedly, we are seeing an increase in media coverage of digital rights, both in the legacy media and in the new media. But there is still room for significant improvement in terms of quality of content and the depth of the reporting. It  would be great if major media houses can assign journalists exclusively to digital rights and inclusion issues so that we could have an improvement both in the number of reports and the quality.”

In his address to the media fellows, Paradigm Initiative’s Executive Director ‘Gbenga Sesan reiterated the need for media houses to focus more attention on the issues affecting digital rights. These issues, according to him, included the absence of data privacy laws, persecution of bloggers and online journalists, mass surveillance, internet shutdown and the new taxes on over-the-top services like social media.

Paradigm Initiative is a social enterprise dedicated to deepening digital rights and inclusion in Africa. The group created the media fellowship to strengthen the capacity of African journalists interested in covering digital rights and inclusion. The pioneer fellows are Victor Ekwealor, a Nigerian and the editor of TechPoint, and Emmanuel Agbenonwossi, the Togolese editor of AfroTribune.

Déclaration de Paradigm Initiative sur le respect des droits numériques en période électorale au Cameroun

By | Press Release

Communiqué de presse : Pour diffusion immédiate

Paradigm Initiative interpelle le gouvernement Camerounais à l’approche de l’élection présidentielle du 7 octobre 2018 à respecter l’ensemble des droits numériques des utilisateurs des TIC avant, pendant et après le scrutin.

En 2017, l’Internet a été coupé pendant 93 jours par le gouvernement dans les régions du Nord-ouest et Sud-ouest du Cameroun. Cette situation a entrainé de graves conséquences sur les droits numériques dans le pays.

Paradigm Initiative rappelle au gouvernement que de tels actes violent la Déclaration Universelle des Droits Humains (DUDH), la déclaration sur les libertés de l’Internet et de la déclaration sur gouvernance de l’Internet de l’Union Africaine (UA).

La perturbation des communications et le blocage des médias sociaux tels que WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, et autres ; ainsi que la mauvaise utilisation des données personnelles pourraient sérieusement entacher le processus électorale et l’intégrité du vote.

Comme par le passé, Paradigm Initiative, condamne toutes tentatives de violations des droits numériques ou toutes fermetures d’Internet volontaires ou involontaires au Cameroun en période d’élection.

Paradigm Initiative exhorte enfin le Gouvernement du Cameroun à respecter ses obligations internationales en matière des droits de l’homme afin de contribuer durablement aux actions de protection des droits numériques dans le pays.

 

Shaping Nigeria’s Digital Future through Positive Legislation

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

By ‘Gbenga Sesan and Mark Stephens

Nigeria stands on the cusp of great progress in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector, owing to diverse efforts by mostly youth-led entrepreneurs and collaborations. In recent years, policymakers and economic experts alike have come to appreciate this reality, looking beyond an annual budget built around oil barrels to better measure the country’s diverse economic potential. Startup hubs are sprouting up across the nation; huge investments are being made in capacity building; a critical mass of Nigerians now have access to telecommunications services, and the government is finally exploring the economic potential of the  ICT sector. These indicators position Nigeria as a possible leader of Africa’s emerging digital economy.

Nevertheless, a major obstacle remains. Around the world, the global digital economy is built upon the foundation of strong legal and policy frameworks, often grounded in international human rights law, which protects the actors within it. Individuals and organizations only thrive and invest in the digital sector when there is a legal certainty, regulatory trust, and rule of law that ensures that the rights of users are respected and that the interests of citizens, businesses, and the government in the digital age are protected.

This is not yet the case in Nigeria. Although the country’s constitution mentions certain rights, there are many laws—nominally in place to protect against legitimate concerns over cybercrime and terrorism— that are ripe for manipulation, leading to clampdowns and digital rights violations. Experience shows that the resulting uncertainty, abuses, and lack of trust will hinder innovation and experimentation by entrepreneurs, chill the critical work of journalists and advocates who use the Internet to improve government services and foster accountability and limit investment by technology platforms. The collective pushback against the proposed “Frivolous Petitions Bill” demonstrates Nigerian citizens’ recognition of such risks

But this could change with the stroke of a pen.  The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, which was developed through deliberate, multistakeholder consultations, and has been passed by both houses of Nigeria’s Congress, provides a comprehensive legislative framework that describes and clarifies relevant obligations and responsibilities for human rights online.  Making it law will boost Nigeria’s burgeoning Internet economy, improve governance, and further Nigeria’s position as a regional and global leader in information, communications, and technology issues.

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill addresses a range of critical digital policy issues, such as data in the cloud; surveillance and a lawful interception; data privacy; and freedom of expression online. The bill also provides for the protection of citizens from errant behaviours such as hate speech and misinformation, as defined by a competent court of law. Overall, the bill addresses key challenges, provides regulatory clarity, and safeguards users rights, all while maintaining a preference for “openness”, which the OECD and many others have noted is vital for boosting trade, enabling innovation and entrepreneurship, fostering new, creative and cost-saving business models, and enriching social well-being.

The Bill presents Nigeria with the opportunity to build an effective digital economy with a robust policy framework that protects businesses and secures human rights, complementing ongoing efforts by citizens, civil society, the private sector, government and other actors. The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill will further cement Nigeria’s reputation as a pioneer in progressive, positive legislation in a world where repression, clampdowns, violations and dangerous laws are on the rise.  We urge the national assembly to transmit the bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his presidential assent. We also urge the President to give his assent to the bill immediately it reaches his desk.

‘Gbenga Sesan is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise he founded in 2007 to improve livelihoods of underserved youth through provision of ICT-enabled support system and entrenchment of digital rights. 

Mark Stephens, CBE has served as the Independent Board Chair of Global Network Initiative since 2014. A partner at UK firm Howard Kennedy, Stephens has undertaken some of the most important freedom of expression and privacy cases in the United Kingdom and around the world. 

Paradigm Initiative Statement on the Introduction of Social Media Tax in Benin Republic

By | Press Release

Paradigm Initiative has condemned the decision of the government of Benin Republic to introduce new levies on telecommunications operators with two taxes relating to the use of telecom services by consumers. This condemnation is contained in a statement released by the social enterprise today August 29th.

According to Internet Sans Frontiers, the development arises from Decree No. 2018-341 of July 25, 2018, adopted by the President of the Republic of Benin, President Patrice Talon. The decree creates a contribution of 5% on the amount excluding tax of communications (voice, SMS, Internet) and a fee of 5 FCFA per megabyte consumed by the user of Over The Top services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Viber, Telegram, etc.

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, “we received this news with displeasure and wish to condemn this alarming trend in Africa countries. Earlier this year, the government of Uganda forged a policy which imposes taxation on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Viber to curb what is referred to as ‘Lugambo’ (gossip) by the President.”

“In August 2018, Zambia followed suit by approving a tax on Internet calls in order to protect large telcos, from losing money. In this same month, reports have it that the Government of Benin has also adopted this policy to tax Over-the-Top (OTT) services; producing a similar reason to Zambia.

We are also aware that the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) is currently agitating and putting undue pressure on the Nigerian Telecommunications Commission for the same practice to be adopted in Nigeria. According to ALTON, the activities of the OTT service providers are eating into the revenue telcos used to enjoy,” Ogundipe added.

The statement continued, as an organization working on ICTs for development, Paradigm Initiative is dismayed at this sort of advocacy by the association of licensed telecommunications operators which is entirely focused on gain and which aims to undo all efforts of government and its stakeholders to deepen access to ICTs in Nigeria.

The citizens of many African countries, including some of those currently affected by this policy, are barely able to boast of good connectivity (or any connectivity at all) to the Internet. For instance, the Internet Penetration in the Benin Republic is 33.1%,  in Zambia, it is 41.2%, in Uganda s 42.9%, and in Nigeria is 50.2%. Internet Technology is only just slowly developing in these regions yet the government is already stifling its development.

Rigobert Kenmogne, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Lead in Francophone Africa said, “It is an overstated truth that the growth and development of technology in any country directly affect its overall development. We call on the governments of Benin, Uganda and Zambia to challenge traditional telecoms providers to leverage and improve the use of technology in their business in order to position themselves to compete favourably in the new era of communication via the internet. Competition is only natural and even necessary for economic growth and should not be the reference point for governments to shoot themselves in the leg and stifle development. It is the 21st Century. Any nation desirous of growth and economic continuity must make itself suitable to accommodate innovations.”

Paradigm Initiative calls upon the government of affected countries to review and rule out these policies from its regulatory space.

Déclaration de Paradigm Initiative sur les pertubations d’Internet au Mali

By | ICTs, Internet Freedom, Press Release

 

Les Organisations de la Société Civile au Mali sont encore profondément préoccupées par les multiples coupures d’Internet enregistrées avant et pendant les deux tours de l’élection présidentielle de 2018.

En effet le 29 Juillet 2018, jour du premier tour de l’élection présidentielle au Mali, le pays a enregistré à plusieurs reprises des coupures d’internet. Selon certains utilisateurs des TIC, l’ensemble des communications électroniques ont été perturbés pendant la période électorale.

Ces perturbations des réseaux Internet enregistrées s’ajoutent à celles de ces derniers mois dans le pays. La perturbation des médias sociaux tels que WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube et Skype est aussi une pratique régulière utilisée par le gouvernement pour entraver la communication entre les populations en période électorale et limiter l’action des opposants.

Au regard de la situation, Paradigm Initiative ainsi que l’ensemble des organisations de la société civile rappellent au gouvernement Malien que de tels actes violent la Déclaration Universelle des Droits Humains(DUDH), les déclarations sur les libertés de l’Internet et de la Gouvernance de l’Internet de l’Union Africaine(UA).

Paradigm Initiative appelle par ailleurs le gouvernement Malien à rétablir sans délai l’ensemble des réseaux Internet de communication sur l’ensemble du territoire national, tout s’abstenant de provoquer de nouvelles perturbations dans la période postélectorale.

Paradigm Initiative demande enfin que les réclamations concernant les différentes violations des droits numériques soient réparées tout en favorisant un accès équitable au service Internet sur l’ensemble du territoire national.

Paradigm Initiative Selects Journalists for Inaugural Media Fellowship

By | Press Release

Two journalists, Victor Ekwealor and Emmanuel Elolo Agbenonwossi, have been announced as the pioneer Fellows for the newly introduced Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship. The media fellowship, a project of Paradigm Initiative, had attracted 116 applications from 19 countries.  This is according to a statement released by Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise working on digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

 

Speaking on the development, Sodiq Alabi, Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer, said, “we are pleased to announce the selection of two brilliant journalists for the inaugural edition of our media fellowship. We are excited about the quality of applications the fellowship attracted in its first year. The Fellowship program is a 5-month program designed to immerse selected journalists in digital rights advocacy and digital inclusion intervention efforts in Africa. Fellows will work with Paradigm Initiative on various projects and contribute to improving media interest in relevant issues.”

 

Emmanuel Agbenonwossi  is a Togolese journalist, editor of GhanaWeb and managing editor of AfroTribune. Agbenonwossi works to advance professional journalism and digital freedom with media and Internet rights defenders globally. Emmanuel has contributed to policy research in Togo, Ghana, Cote-d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and other African countries. He is a fellow of UNESCO, ICANN, AfriSIG and the IGF Academy. Emmanuel Agbenonwossi is an alumnus of the University of Greenwich (UK), the Central University of Tunisia and the University of Malta. He holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism, a post-graduate diploma in Cyber-Security, Leadership and Business Information Technology.

Emmanuel Agbenonwossi (Editor, GhanaWeb) | 2018 Digital Rights & Inclusion Media Fellow

 

Victor Ekwealor is a Nigerian writer, storyteller and award-winning multimedia journalist. Victor works as Editor at TechPoint. His flair for storytelling stems from the desire to highlight untold African stories from the highest journalistic standards with modern technological tools. Victor believes Africans would either tell more African stories or watch the world do it for them. He is interested in, and mostly covers, the interaction of human beings and technology. He is also interested in technology, startups, innovations, policies, digital inclusion and digital rights.

 

Victor Ekwealor (Editor, TechPoint)| 2018 Digital Rights & Inclusion Media Fellow

 

The fellowship will commence in September 2018, with a two-week residency at Paradigm Initiative’s Nigerian offices, in Aba, Abuja Ajegunle, Kano and Yaba, and run until January 2019. Fellows will also get the chance to connect with Paradigm Initiative team members in Yaounde and Nairobi.

 

Three civil society organizations will hold the third edition of their New Media, Citizens, and Governance Conference in Abuja

By | Press Release

Three civil society organizations namely, Enough is Enough Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative and BudgiT will hold the third edition of their New Media, Citizens, and Governance Conference in Abuja in October. The organizers made this known as registration for the conference opened.

According to ‘Yemi Adamolekun, the Executive Director of EiE Nigeria, “the conference will shed light on how new media leverages technology and platforms to connect, curate and share information in innovative ways.  As a subset of new media, ‘social media’ requires interaction and it is this element that opens areas of risk – security and privacy challenges.”  

“Social media has continued to play a crucial role in the political landscape of the world. Political office holders (elected and appointed), political office campaigners, government departments and agencies have utilized social media as a tool to lure and engage the constituents who benefit from their services,” Adamolekun added.

Chidi Odinkalu, the former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, will present the keynote address, while the conference is expected to welcome leading thinkers from across Africa as guest speakers.

It would be recalled that the 2nd edition of the conference was held in October 2016, 18 months after Nigeria witnessed the peaceful ouster of an incumbent president through the ballot; the first time in Nigeria’s democratic history. The conference served as a follow up to several discussions on the use of new media in elections and as a tool for holding government officials and institutions accountable. The 3rd edition of the conference will happen in Abuja, Nigeria on October 24 & 25, 2018.

Speaking on the development, Oluseun Onigbinde, the Co-founder of BudgiT said, “The conference creates an avenue to discuss rights and responsibilities of citizens and government in using new media in mutually beneficial ways. NMCG would include an array of panels on national security, social media conduct, national orientation and technical sessions, with experts and prominent voices in Africa invited to speak at the 2-day conference.”

Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Program of Paradigm Initiative called on active citizens to register to attend the conference to ensure their voices are heard. “Governance in the 21st century is a citizen-led affair. The office of the Citizen is the most important office in contemporary politics, and we must all play our part in ensuring good governance by leveraging our citizen power. The NMCG Conference is another opportunity to devise better ways of deploying citizen power for the good of our society“, she concluded. 

For more information on this release, please send a mail to media@newmediagov.ng.

Legal Battle Over CyberCrimes Act Moves to the Supreme Court

By | ICT Policy, Press Release

The legal battle over the constitutionality of sections of the Cybercrimes Act has now moved to the Supreme Court. Three civil society organizations, namely Media Rights Agenda, Paradigm Initiative and Enough Is Enough Nigeria are pleading with apex court to expunge Sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015.

 

The organizations commenced this journey in May 2016, when, their lawyer Olumide Babalola first filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit challenging the constitutionality of sections 24 and 38 of the Act at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja. On January 20, 2017, the court, however, ruled that the sections were constitutional.

 

The unfavourable decision at the High Court pushed the organizations to approach the Court of Appeal. The appeal with case number A/L/556/2017 was however decided against the appellants, in a judgment delivered on June 22, 2018. The organizations are now putting their hope in the Supreme Court to ensure Sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 are stricken off the Nigerian law book.

 

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, “It bears repeating here that Section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act deals with Cyberstalking and that section has been repeatedly used to harass and persecute journalists and critics. It’s arguably the most dangerous provision against freedom of speech, opinion, and inquiry. Sections 38 provides for the duties of a service provider vis-a-vis data retention and contains provisions that we believe are too vague and borderline unconstitutional.”

 

Ogundipe continued, “While we respect the learned Justices who did not agree with our submissions on the unconstitutionality of the sections, we, however, believe the courts have failed to carefully consider our arguments. In a concurring judgment, one of the justices of the appellate court agreed that the law should be reviewed to whittle-down its arbitrariness. We believe the sections should be removed in their entirety and we hope the Supreme Court would agree with us”

 

The respondents in the case are the Attorney General of the Federation, the Inspector General of the Police and the National Assembly.

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