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Press Release

Paradigm Initiative Praises the Media for Improved Digital Rights Coverage

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

Media coverage of issues confronting digital rights and online freedom has significantly improved over the last year as more media platforms and practitioners dedicate more attention to developments in the digital space. This is according to Paradigm Initiative, the pan-African digital rights and inclusion social enterprise.

Paradigm Initiative made this known in a press statement announcing the commencement of application for the second edition of its Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship.

Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer Sodiq Alabi said, “The media has become a major partner in the efforts to ensure that human rights online are protected in Africa. As media practitioners are usually victims of digital rights violations including censorship, harassment and illegal surveillance, it makes perfect sense that they are now focusing their attention on increasing awareness around digital rights and holding governments and businesses accountable. ”

Paradigm Initiative further emphasised the need for improved synergy between digital rights advocates and the media to ensure human rights online are well protected by the law, and violations do not go unreported.

“The Media Fellowship is part of our effort to ensure this synergy is groomed and nurtured. The Fellowship is, therefore, a 4-month program designed to immerse outstanding, early career, journalists in digital rights and digital inclusion advocacy – and intervention efforts – in Africa. This way, we help improve the quality of reporting on digital rights and inclusion by improving the expertise of reporters who cover the beat,” Alabi said.

Meanwhile, the 7th Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum is scheduled to hold in Lagos. Convened by Paradigm Initiative, the Forum will host some 300 delegates from across Africa and the world. The delegates will, between April 23 and 25, assess the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa with the aim of finding solutions to identified challenges.

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

Paradigm Initiative Asks Rwanda to Respect Privacy Rights  

By | Press Release

The government of Rwanda has recently proposed a country-wide DNA database, a project that will involve collecting samples from all 12 million citizens in an effort to address crime. This has prompted concerns from human rights campaigners who believe the database could be misused by the government and violate international human rights laws. While the country poses a data protection policy, it is still very vague and not comprehensive enough to tackle the challenges that come with having such a database.

The government of Rwanda should realize that “genome is the property of an individual and not the state’s” hence policies they put forth to govern this move should grant citizens consent on what data they choose to share under very strict circumstances. DNA sample contains very personal information hence the risk of data abuse is potentially high as well as vulnerability to hacking.

Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern Africa, Rebecca Ryakitimbo said, “It is debatable whether the benefits to society of having a national DNA database outweighs an individual’s right to privacy. There is a need to answer critical questions such as ”Who owns the genetic information and who controls what happens to it and how it is used? Who is responsible for the genetic information”.The potential for the information in the DNA database to be misused by the Government, security services, police forces or criminals is quite high if these questions are not attended to.”

Drawing experiences from countries like the UK which has a National DNA Database (NDNAD)  that holds the DNA profiles and samples from a select number of UK individuals. The implications of this database to innocent citizens who were on the database brought about privacy and other human rights concerns. It was in the light of this that in 2012, the UK Protection of Freedoms Bill came to effect to redress the balance between the State’s duty to protect the public and an individual’s right to privacy. This brought about the taking down of 1,766,000 DNA profiles taken from innocent adults and children, along with 1,672,000 fingerprint records. In addition to this,  7,753,000 DNA samples including 480,000 from children that contained sensitive personal biological data were destroyed.

Paradigm Initiative further said “Rwandan legislators, courts and law enforcement to ensure that the benefits of the database don’t come at the cost of privacy rights. It also essential to recognize that people do have an interest in controlling who can see their private information. The Government of Rwanda should foresee the risks that accompany the presence of such an extensive database containing very private and personal data of millions of its citizens in the age where digital security is of great concern. With the use of DNA data for policing, there will be risks on the burden of proof required for the forensic acceptability of DNA data.”

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

Groups Sue Gbenga Olorunpomi and Lauretta Onochie Over “Hate Speech”

By | Press Release, Uncategorized

Two Civil Society organizations, Enough is Enough Nigeria and Paradigm Initiative have instituted a case asking the court to declare comments made by some political aides in Nigeria as Hate speeches.

Relying on documentary evidences gathered from online comments made by the two affected aides, Gbenga Olorunpomi, Aide to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Lauretta Onochie, Aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, the organizations through their lawyer are asking the court to determine if the statements violates sections of Nigeria’s Cybercrime(Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015 .

However, due to the elusiveness of the Defendants and their addresses, the Court favoured that the court processes should be advertised in national dailies. This was subsequently done on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 in two leading National Dailies with national spread

According to Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative, “the two organizations filed the case as a measure to curb the spread of hate speeches in Nigeria, a trend which is mostly associated with the political class. While their principals may not be less guilty of similar accusations, Governors and Presidents are however protected from prosecution by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. It is, however, significant that those political actors with links to power are being challenged for comments made at several times. The usual trend in Nigeria was for the political class to use their position to persecute citizens, journalists, activists and opposition whom they deem too critical of power under the guise of fighting hate speech or fake news.”

“If hate speech is to be curbed in Nigeria, then the prosecution must start from the political class who has always gotten away with inciting statements some of whom have led to crisis and deaths of many in the past.” Says Adeboye

The case is expected to come up for hearing at the Federal High Court Abuja today, Thursday, March 14, 2019.

Paradigm Initiative Releases 2018 Annual Report, Demonstrates Impact

By | Digital Rights, Echoes From Life, Press Release

The social enterprise, Paradigm Initiative has released its 2018 annual report. The report provides insight into the work of the organisation, especially in how it lives up to its mission of improving the “livelihoods of underserved youths”.

Featured in the annual report is Joy Ukpong, an alumna of the group’s free digital inclusion program. At the time of joining the program, 27-year old Joy Ukpong’s income was N10,000 a month as a  struggling hairdresser in Ajegunle, Lagos. She was desperate for a break, and Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Inclusion program gave her the break which she wisely seized, learning relevant digital and life skills.

Few weeks after the conclusion of the 10-week training, Ukpong got a job as an administrative assistant at a law firm. Her income immediately jumped to N25,000. Thanks to her new skills, Ukpong has a more stable income and work structure that allows her to develop herself.

Her story, according to Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi, “is another proof that our investment in digital inclusion programs in underserved communities is indeed improving the livelihood of the beneficiaries.”

The Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan also said, “As a result of the year’s investment in under-served Nigerian youth, we were able to train 869 students through the 10-week LIFE program, LIFE@School Club and the quarterly workshops. 150 students got internships, picked up jobs, earned enough to return to school, joined apprenticeship programs and/or started micro businesses. During the year, the average income among our students grew from N4,805.15 to N23,083.25!”

Highlighting the group’s work in digital rights, Sesan said “In 2018, our Digital Rights work covered Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. We hosted 13 training programs, reviewed 36 policy documents, produced 12 research-based reports, acted on 20 digital rights violations, and led 4 litigation processes.”

The Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe said the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill in Nigeria is an important milestone for the group in 2018. The Bill, which was transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on February 5 2019, has been a major project of the group since 2014 when it began advocacy for the passage of a law dedicated to the protection of online rights and freedoms.

Paradigm Initiative, which was founded in Nigeria in 2007, is physically present in five African countries, from where it executes programs across the continent.  The group said its new Strategic Management Plan (2019-2023) would even see it do more over the next few years.

Free speech and press freedom continue to be under attack in Tanzania.

Is Tanzania Moving Towards Totalitarianism?

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

By ‘Gbenga Sesan

Last Wednesday, January 30, Tanzania moved decisively closer to becoming a one-party state when parliament approved proposed amendments to the Political Parties’ Act that was first passed in 1992. That was the year that the country adopted multi-party democracy, after 31 years of maintaining its one-party status that it nearly started with as an independent nation in 1961 and made official through a 1963 announcement by the then President, Julius Nyerere.

The man whose leadership influenced the Tanganyika African National Union’s landslide win of all but one seats in the 1960 Legislative Council elections, President Julius Nyerere, admitted that the system brought about “slackness and indifference”. Why is Tanzania now undoing, in 2019, a problem it fixed 27 years ago? There was more than one reason why a move to a multi-party system was necessary; not only to keep the competing parties on their toes but also to avoid muting authentic dissent. It was also necessary to modulate the voice of the party which then had great significance.

In a report by the 1991 Presidential Commission set up to ensure a smooth transition to multipartyism, they stated that surveys showed that the multi-party system gave voters a wider choice of politics, parties and candidates than the one-party system. The Nyalali Commission recommended the formation of the office of the Registrar of Parties whose function as suggested was to register political parties. Since the advent of multipartyism in 1992, Tanzania has seen the opening of the political arena which represented every citizen and brought more competition to how the government accounted for its responsibilities. Opposition parties took up their roles as expected in a democracy, bringing diversity and critical scrutiny of government. A vibrant opposition started gaining more ground during the turn of the new century when they exposed the gray areas that the ruling party needed to address.

However, since 2016, there has been an effective, if largely illegal, ban on political parties carrying out public meetings and rallies. Many opposition leaders, including Zitto Kabwe, have been arrested for violating the ban as well as making “anti-government” comments. While this ban has been strongly opposed, social media has been serving as a public space for the discussion of political and urgent matters of concern. At times, issues are taken up directly with political leaders on social media platforms such as Twitter. When online activist Mange Kimambi defied the ban and made a call for protests, several police commissioners and the minister of Home Affairs ensured the protests did not hold.

The government intensified the clampdown on freedom of expression, following the emergence of the 2015 Cybercrime Act that criminalized criticizing government officials online. In May 2018, the Electronics Postal Communications Act came into play with vague regulations and sanctions to further stifle online rights. Not only are provisions of these law enablers of human rights violations, but they have also gone a step further into shrinking civic spaces.

In late 2018, a bill proposing to amend some provisions of the Political Parties’ Act was brought to Parliament. The proposed amendments include giving enormous power and immunity to the political parties’ Registrar, who is an appointee of the ruling parties’ government, to act as a regulator and police all political parties. In these new amendments, the Registrar has the power to deregister, dismiss and request information at any time. While activists and the opposition have put up a fight to speak out against the draconian amendments, the ruling party has maintained an unsurprising silence. The bill also proposes jail time and hefty fines for breach of the law, still giving the Registrar the powers to manage internal affairs of political parties. A coalition of political parties approached the  courts to block the government from bringing the political parties bill to the parliament but the coalition was turned down by the High Court, and was also asked to pay the government for inconvenience!

The government of President Magufuli appears to be in a sworn fight against freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – online and offline – and its stifling of opposition voices clearly contravenes the principles of democracy. As with many African governments, including that of my home country, Nigeria, the government of Tanzania is so afraid of criticism that any such voice is targeted through restrictive legislation. It is now unlawful to openly criticize through traditional media, online or even as members of opposing political parties. Is Tanzania heading towards totalitarianism, away from the democratic principles it has been identified with over the years?

The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has questioned some of the legislative provisions that pose a threat to the country’s political diversity. At a press conference on January 27, 2019, members of the opposition commended the Committee for rejecting provisions such as granting the Registrar, Deputy Registrar and other officers immunity from prosecution. The committee also asked that section 6 of the bill be reworded to correspond with the current Political Parties’ Act and called for the removal of the provision that bars political parties from operating as pressure groups. Unfortunately, when Parliament resumed this week, the bill was passed into law.

This infringes on real democracy. Online and offline activities of political parties, and citizens will be restricted. We have seen the silencing of online voices through the legislation that called for an annual $927 registration fee for bloggers and the victimisation of civil society voices, and while I wonder what the reaction of affected political parties and civil society in Tanzania would be, it is important for us to shed light on the clampdowns on digital – and other forms of – rights in Tanzania.

From Nigeria to Tanzania, and Angola to Zimbabwe, Africa must stop this trend of clampdowns that have created a climate of fear online. The continent needs the Internet as a platform for innovation and economic opportunities, along with its natural role as a civic space, instead of a space where young people – who are the continent’s resource hope – look over their shoulders.

‘Gbenga Sesan is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, the pan-African digital rights and inclusion group.

Paradigm Initiative Celebrates Safer Internet Day

By | Advocacy, Press Release

As the world commemorates the 2019 Safer Internet Day, Paradigm Initiative has urged Nigerians to adopt safer internet practices. The pan-African digital rights and inclusion advocacy organisation made this call at a media parley held Monday, February 4, at its office in Lagos.

 

According to Sodiq Alabi, the organisation’s Communications Officer, “The Safer Internet Day is a day set aside to raise awareness of emerging online issues, and leverage this to help improve the safety of internet users, especially children and youth. Paradigm Initiative has been empowering youth with digital skills in Nigeria for over a decade, and we have always been conscious of the need to train internet users on the responsible use of the tool.”

 

The organisation has embarked on a digital literacy campaign targeted at young people in Abia, Lagos and Kano, the three states where it currently runs training centres dedicated to information and communication technology skills acquisition among underserved youth.

 

The digital literacy campaign includes classes on digital security for youth, media outreach and roadshows. The campaign is aimed at encouraging internet users in the country to make positive use of the Internet.

 

According to Tosin Abolaji, Paradigm Initiative Digital Inclusion Program Manager, “This is a crucial time to embark on this campaign as Nigeria heads to the polls in a matter of days. Young people are especially impressionable. We want them to recognize that issues of false news, hate speech and cyber harassment are phenomena that can negatively affect peace and security, but also the integrity of an election.  We believe internet users education is one of the ways to combat these phenomena.”

 

“Our message to youth is to be more discerning in how they consume content on social media and other platforms. That something is online does not make it true. We encourage all users to acquire fact-checking skills so they don’t fall prey to misinformation campaigns and they don’t themselves unwittingly spread misinformation,” Abolaji added.

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.

 

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