Category

Press Release

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.

‘Gbenga Sesan Calls for End to Taxes on Social Media, Blogging

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

A digital rights expert and the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan has called for an end to attempts by governments in Africa to impose taxes on the digital platforms, saying such attempts are dangerous to the economic and democratic development on the continent.

Sesan made this call on Thursday at the 2018 Tanzania School of Internet Governance where he was a faculty member. It would be recalled that the Tanzanian government recently imposed a license fee of $900 on bloggers in the country, while Uganda also imposed a daily tax on the use of social media and mobile money.

“The levy imposed on digital content creators in Tanzania is not an isolated violation of digital rights but the manifestation of a trend across the continent. From Uganda’s social media tax to Cameroon’s shutdowns and Nigeria’s clampdown incidents, among others, freedom of expression online is under threat for many reasons, including the fact that digital platforms have become a major channel for citizens’ expression around governments’ poor service delivery to citizens. It is important to see these issues from the pan-African perspective as we engage with the context of our varied experiences” Sesan said.  

Sesan was a member of Nigeria’s Presidential committees on Harmonization of Information Technology, Telecommunications and Broadcasting Sectors (2006) and Roadmap for the Achievement of Accelerated Universal Broadband Infrastructure and Services Provision (2013), and is a vocal advocate for digital rights and inclusion in Africa. He took participants on “Advocacy Communications,” walking participants through the process of effective advocacy.  

For more information on this release, please send a mail to Sodiq Alabi via media@paradigmhq.org.

“Suspension of Mohammed Wanigi a Flagrant Abuse of Power”- Paradigm Initiative, EiE

By | Advocacy, Internet Freedom, Press Release

Paradigm Initiative and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria have condemned in strong terms the suspension of Baba Mohammed Wanigi, a school teacher with the Agaie Local Government in Niger State, in reaction to Wanigi’s alleged criticism of government officials including President Muhammad Buhari. The two civil society organisations made this known in a jointly signed press statement released today.

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative Director of Programs, “The Local Education Authority of the Agaie Local Government Council, Niger state, Nigeria issued a suspension letter to one of its employees, Baba Mohammed Wanigi, a teacher in service of the Niger State government. According to the letter, the suspension was based on the teacher’s ‘active participation in politics and hate speech especially on the social media’. This is all because Mr Wanigi exercised his freedom of speech in criticising government and government officials on social media.”

“It is obvious that this act by the LEA is not only morally reprehensible but patently unconstitutional. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Section 39 provides that every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. This is a most basic right for citizens in a democracy,” Ogundipe said.

Every Nigerian is a key stakeholder in matters concerning Nigeria and no group or body may constitute itself as an authority to preclude its members from ‘Active participation in politics’. It makes no sense whatsoever, neither does it matter that a meeting was held with the 169 Head Teachers of Agaie Local Government Education Authority to decide against active participation in politics. The Local Government Education Authority does not have the authority to overrule the constitution or limit constitutionally-guaranteed rights.   

According to Adeboro Odunlami, a digital rights advocate with Paradigm Initiative, said, “The general definition of Hate Speech is any statement or speech that attacks a group or category of people and incites violence or prejudicial attack against them. A controversial statement is not hate speech. A dissenting opinion is not hate speech. An uncomfortable perspective is not hate speech. An unpopular stance is not hate speech. It is therefore wrong for the government to take disciplinary action against a person for no reason other than the expression of his opinion about the state of affairs and conduct of the administration.”

Also speaking on the matter, Adeolu Adekola, Program Manager of EiE Nigeria said, “As Nigeria moves towards the 2019 elections, we are concerned about politicians using this excuse and guise of hate speech to repress citizens and the opposition. Several attempts to control free speech especially on social media has been resisted and will continue to be challenged”.

“We recall the Frivolous Petition bill (Prohibition, etc) Bill 2015 sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah had a clause that sought to regulate the use of social media and short message service (SMS) in the country. This was resisted and in May 2016, the bill was withdrawn and thrown out. Also, section 24 of the Cybercrime Act, 2015 has loopholes that are being exploited to repress freedom of expression over the Nigerian cyberspace and civil liberties,” Adeolu said. EiE Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) are in court to challenge section 24 of the act.  

We therefore call on the Local Government to retract the suspension letter and decision and reinstate unconditionally Baba Mohammed Wanigi back into service. We also demand that an apology should be made to him for the gross infringement of his fundamental right to freedom of expression.

‘Gbenga Sesan Bemoans Attacks on Internet Freedom in Africa

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

A digital rights expert and the executive director of Paradigm Initiative, Mr ‘Gbenga Sesan has bemoaned the spate of attacks on internet freedom in Africa. Sesan was speaking at RightsCon, an international conference on digital rights recently in Toronto, Canada.

Sesan, while speaking on efforts by Paradigm Initiative and its partners to protect digital rights and freedom on the continent, said “At Paradigm Initiative, we do this annual report focused on the state of digital rights in Africa. In 2017, we looked at twenty-one African countries and one of the trends we have seen is that things are getting worse. In terms of clamp down on the media, in terms of clamp down on citizens, in terms of using excuses like national security to shut down the internet, things continue to go downhill in many countries across Africa.”

“In Nigeria, there is a new proposal on hate speech bill, and the definition of hate speech is very interesting actually, an insult is considered hate speech. So we have a situation where citizens would not be able to express themselves freely online. Next month, we will release our report on Nigeria and I can tell you right now that things are not looking great for Nigeria in terms of respect for internet freedom.”

Paradigm Initiative recently conducted an online pool on freedom of expression online in Nigeria, and it was discovered that 40% of respondents feel unsafe expressing themselves online.

Sesan also used the opportunity to talk about Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill that was recently passed by the National Assembly. He said the bill would ensure that digital rights are taken seriously in Nigeria and that those who violate these rights are held accountable under the law.

“We are excited about the passage of the bill by the national assembly. We hope the national assembly would expedite actions on transmitting the bill to the presidency for the presidential assent. Our hope is that the bill is signed into law before activities for the next elections in 2019 take centre stage.

Paradigm Initiative held three sessions at the international conference and all were focused on entrenching understanding of issues affecting digital rights and freedom in Africa. Other members of Paradigm Initiative at the conference were the Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs, and Boye Adegoke, the Digital Rights  Program Manager for Anglophone Africa.

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

Paradigm Initiative Demands End to Press Attacks

By | Press Release

As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2018, Paradigm Initiative has called for an immediate end to the spate of attacks on the media in Africa.
The celebration of the 2018 World Press Day comes at a time of increased press attacks across Africa, an unfortunate reality that is partly behind shrinking civic spaces in the continent.
Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs of Paradigm Initiative, noted, “One of the key developments noted in our Digital Rights in Africa Report 2017 was the increased wave of attacks on the Press in Africa. Whereas in 2016 most of the arrests for comments made online were of ordinary citizens, in 2017 the focus of arrests and prosecutions for comments made online shifted to journalists. Journalists should not be targeted for doing their legitimate jobs”.
“The years 2017 and 2018 have witnessed a record number of journalist arrests in Nigeria. Media houses were also broken into as overzealous security officers did the bidding of their paymasters. Journalists and the media played a crucial role in the establishment of democracy in Nigeria, so we cannot sit back and watch their right trampled upon,” Ogundipe added.
Speaking further on the topic, Boye Adegoke, Paradigm Initiative’s Program Manager for Digital Rights said, “The Cybercrimes Act of 2015 has emerged as the principal tool in the hands of the rich and powerful in persecuting Nigerian citizens and Journalists for comments made online. We have initiated lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrime Act, which has been the legal basis for much of the abuse of press freedom we have seen in Nigeria”
“As we celebrate World Press Day 2018 on May 3, 2018, let’s all join hands together to ensure that Press Freedom is respected in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world,” Adeboye continued.

For more information about this press release, please contact Sodiq Alabi, Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer at sodiq.alabi@paradigmhq.org

Expert Urges Citizens to Defend Digital Rights

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

A digital rights expert, Tope Ogundipe has urged citizens of various African countries to use their power in the defense of digital rights and other human rights on the continent. Ogundipe, who serves as the Director of Programs at Paradigm Initiative, was speaking recently at a digital rights workshop organized by Paradigm Initiative and held in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Ogundipe, who facilitated several sessions at the workshop, said “Citizens cannot afford not to get involved in the advocacy in defense of digital rights. Digital rights are as important as other human rights, as the digital space has become a most important center for economic activities, access to emergency services and platform for exercising freedom of speech and free press”

“Citizens’ rights to express themselves online and offline, gather and disseminate information and ideas are important to the fate of democracy in Africa. Not only that, absence of data privacy and protection,  illegal and blanket surveillance, internet shutdowns, and other rights violation all impact negatively on democracy and the economic development of a country. It is the centrality of digital rights that makes them the business of all citizens,” Ogundipe said.

Many African countries have recorded several cases of digital rights violations in the last few years. These include the 2017 internet shutdown in Cameroon, arrest, and persecution of bloggers and journalists in countries including Nigeria, Egypt, and Ethiopia. The absence of data privacy and protection law in the majority of the countries also make them an easy target of data breach and abuse.

The digital rights workshop is an initiative of Internews and Paradigm Initiative and received support from Cameroon-based Afro Leadership and Centre for Youth Education and Economic Development. The two inaugural workshops were held over a 4-day period between May 2 and May 6, 2018, and welcomed sixty participants from different regions of Cameroon. Resource persons at the workshop include Rigobert Kenmogne, Google Policy Fellow with Paradigm Initiative, Sodiq Alabi, the Communications Officer of Paradigm Initiative, Charlie Ngouno, the Founder of Afro Leadership, and ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative.

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

IFF2018: Experts Assess State of Internet Freedom in Africa

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

For three days, digital rights experts and stakeholders assessed the state of internet freedom in Africa. This was the recently concluded 6th Internet Freedom Forum organized by Paradigm Initiative at NAF Conference Centre, Abuja, between April 24 and 26, 2018.

The experts, who came from countries across Africa and the world, gathered in Abuja to help shape the future of policy on the Internet in Africa.

According to Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs at Paradigm Initiative, “The Internet is rapidly changing every aspect of life in Africa – including education, work, business, entertainment, governance, and health, amongst others. Its growing importance has made it a contention ground for interests in government, the private sector, and civil society. The Forum, therefore, serves as a platform to actively and proactively engage with policies that affect freedom and rights online.”

Speaking at the event, Titi Akinsanmi, Head Public Policy, and Government Relations at Google stated, “The Internet has become an indispensable tool for development in all sectors of life. All hands must be on deck to enable more access to the Internet, and to eliminate abuses such as privacy violations”.

Also speaking at the event, Akua Gyekye, Public Policy Manager West Africa for Facebook, remarked, “As Nigeria approaches the 2019 elections, the Internet is a useful vehicle for civic education for citizens on the best practices for political participation. Facebook will work with stakeholders in Nigeria to ensure that our platform is not abused to impact negatively on the elections.”

Nnenna Wakama, Senior Manager, Africa, for the World Wide Web Foundation, highlighted the challenge of the rising cost of Internet data across the continent saying, “The conversation on Internet freedom must begin at looking at the prohibitive cost of data bundles which prevents millions of people from accessing the Internet in Africa”.

On the side session on Nigeria’s Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), Mr. Damen Ilevbaoje, Program Manager at Budgit Nigeria, stated, transparent and effective use of the Universal Service Provision Fund is a priority if Internet access is to reach underserved areas in Nigeria’s rural areas”

Speaking at the International event, the Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan, noted, “The Internet is, without doubt, one of the most important technological innovations of the 20th century, and has radically transformed every aspect of our modern society. IFF 2018 is a continuation of the conversation we must continue to have with all stakeholders as we seek to build a healthy and free Internet space for Africa, and the world”.

‘Gbenga Sesan said further, “in continuation of this important conversation and to cater for an expanded audience, from 2019 the Internet Freedom Forum will now be known as the “Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum.”

Paradigm Initiative also announced the creation of a Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship, which is designed to give “media professionals, who are important stakeholders in this conversation, an opportunity to interact with professionals working on digital rights and inclusion across the continent”.

The Internet Freedom Forum welcomed over two hundred delegates from some thirty countries in Africa and beyond and received support from organizations including Microsoft, Ford Foundation, The Guardian, Mozilla, Google, Facebook, Premium Times and Civicus.

Experts Call for Replication of Digital Rights Bill in other African Countries

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

Digital rights experts have called for the replication of Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill by other African countries. The bill which was recently passed by the National Assembly was praised by experts as a step in the good direction in strengthening digital rights on the continent.

The experts made this call at the 6th Internet Freedom Forum, an international conference organized by Paradigm Initiative, which is currently taking place at NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.

Speaking at the event, Ephraim Kenyanito of Article 19 East Africa, said, “It would be great if the Nigerian president could immediately sign the bill into law. This would be seen as a challenge to other African countries. It would be great for Nigeria to set a good example in this area.”

According to Adeboye Adegoke, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Manager, “The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill was drafted by a coalition of civil society, private sector and government to protect the digital rights of Nigerians in the emerging digital age. The bill is great for the protecting citizens’ rights and also great for the economy as it would energize the tech industry.”

John Edokpolo, Microsoft Nigeria Head of Legal Affairs, called on the government to enact good laws in encouraging innovation and development in the tech industry. “If you want foreign direct investment in the technology industry, you need to have a good data privacy law, among other things. It helps when businesses can help government see the economic benefits of having positive legislation around digital rights. The job should not be left to the civil society alone.”

The Forum also provided an opportunity to discuss the adversarial relationship between government and media in the digital age. Speaking at the session dedicated to the theme, Henry Maina, Regional Director of Article 19 Eastern Africa, said: “Nigeria remains one of the many African countries which still retain criminal libel laws, an unfortunate reality that simply erodes freedom.”

Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Digital Media, said, “an effective media ensures a free society and serves as a check on government. The media should, therefore, avoid engaging in only broadcasting what different actors are saying but go beyond the press statements to finding out the truth. The media must do more to combat fake news and ensure truthfulness in their reports. While I would not campaign for government regulation of media space, I would argue for the media to be more accountable and self-regulate.”

Dapo Olorunyomi, the publisher of Premium Times, said the media was already accountable and it was the government that needed to improve transparency and its proactiveness in releasing information.

The Internet Freedom Forum also had a session dedicated to discussing the impact of intentional internet disruptions on the economy. This session, coordinated by the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) at Strathmore University Kenya, analyzed the economic impact of internet shutdown on the economies of the countries that have experienced. Speakers at the session bemoaned the ease with which African countries now resort to internet shutdown without any consideration for its impact on their peoples and economy.

The Forum, which runs between April 24 to April 26, brings together experts from across some forty countries in Africa and beyond.  speakers at the event together also included ‘Gbenga Sesan, Tolu Adeleru-Balogun of Naija Info, Ana Brandusescu of Web Foundation, and Titi Akinsanmi of Google.

Stakeholders Hold Roundtable on Digital Rights and Engagement in Lagos

By | Advocacy, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

en_USEnglish
fr_FRFrench en_USEnglish