Again, Government Shuts Down the Internet in DR Congo

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The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) have once again become victims of Internet abuse and messaging shutdown since Monday, December 31, 2018. The digital rights group, Paradigm Initiative condemned this action and called on the Congolese government to desist from infringing on the digital rights of its citizens. This is contained in a statement signed by the organisation’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.

Telecommunications services customers in the country have been informed by the Internet Services Providers in the country by the following message: “Dear Customer, at the request of the government, our Internet services are suspended for an indefinite period.” SMS communications were also interrupted afterwards.  

According to the government, communications and the Internet have been cut to stop the spread of fictitious results and safeguard national security in the aftermath of the presidential and legislative polls in the country.

For opposition candidates and civil society leaders, this new Internet shutdown by the government is unacceptable and contributes to the weakening of the electoral process. For Congolese joint opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu’s spokesperson, “cutting Internet proves that everything is set up to torpedo the process.” This Internet shutdown adds to other interruptions recorded in the country for almost three years.

Indeed, on February 22, 2018, the Congolese government announced in a Statement that Internet services will be cut for a period of three days throughout the country. The action was aimed at stifling a call for protest by activist groups.

On January 21, 2018, when the Catholic church leaders called for peaceful demonstrations against President Joseph Kabila’s 17-year-old rule, a new shutdown of the Internet took place with a duration of about 48 hours.

On December 30, 2017, a letter from the Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and Information addressed to the General Manager of AFRICELL Congo asked him for the total suspension of Internet supplies in the country, as well as SMS communications. This three-day Internet shutdown was still aimed at stifling opposition protests.

DR Congo has more than 83 million inhabitants with an Internet penetration rate of around 15% and presents itself as a country where digital rights are seriously threatened. The financial losses associated with multiple Internet cuts are estimated at several million dollars per day.

In light of all of the above, Paradigm Initiative strongly condemns this government-orchestrated Internet shutdown that may discredit the electoral process and recalls that Internet cuts are a flagrant violation of the digital rights and freedoms of expression guaranteed by texts of law and international standards.

Paradigm Initiative calls on the DR Congo government to respect its international obligations in terms of Internet governance and human rights and to restore the Internet and all communications services as soon as possible in every part of the country.

Activists Arrested in Nigeria over Facebook Posts and Protest

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Paradigm Initiative is deeply concerned about the arrest and detention of activist Deji Adeyanju and two other Nigerians by the Nigerian Police. This is according to a statement by the digital rights and inclusion group’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.

Mr Adeyanju was reportedly arrested alongside two other activists namely Daniel Abobama and Boma Williams on Wednesday morning while leading a protest against police bias ahead of 2019 general elections.

It is our position that the tenents of democracy entitle each citizen to free speech, freedom of peaceful assembly and of demonstration. Therefore,  Mr Adeyanju is well entitled to his opinion on the bias of the police towards the incumbent president and is in fact, entitled to lead a peaceful protest in this regard.

We are aware that the Police spokesperson Jimoh Moshood has cited Mr Adeyanju’s Facebook posts and the content of the trio’s protest placards as the ground for their arrest as the Police deemed the content “criminally defamatory, and also capable of incitement and breach of public peace.” We, however, do not agree with this position. Controversial or dissenting opinions do not automatically qualify as hate speech or defamation – and free speech and demonstration are the entitlement of every citizen of a democratic state.

Paradigm Initiative, therefore, calls upon the Nigeria Police to withdraw its charge against the activists and cause release as critical speech and protest do not constitute a crime in a democratic country like Nigeria. Instead of arrest and persecution of critics, the Nigeria Police is advised to counter criticism with their own facts and argument rather than resorting to force and abuse of power.

Nigeria Urged To Prioritize Signing the Digital Rights Bill into Law  

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Abuja, Nigeria

The digital rights and inclusion group, Paradigm Initiative has expressed concerns over the delay in transmitting the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB490) to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent, urging the legislative and the executive arms to ensure the bill is signed before the 2019 elections. This is according to a statement signed by the organisation’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi.

The landmark Bill was initially passed by the Senate in March 2018 after previously passed by the House of Representatives in December 2017. After an eight-month delay, the National Assembly reworked Clause 4 of the Bill after a concern was raised by the Directorate of Legal Services of the National Assembly. The new version of the Bill was passed by the Senate last Tuesday, November 27.

While speaking on the issue, Digital Rights Program Manager for Paradigm Initiative, Adeboye Adegoke spoke about the delay experienced in transmitting the Bill to the President. “Since the first passage of the Bill, we have been following up with the National Assembly on its onward transmission. We sent a freedom of information requests which were not replied and have since been left to wonder why it is taking so long to transmit the Bill to the President for his assent. Now that the Senate has reworked and re-passed the Bill, we hope that the bill will be immediately transmitted to the President.”

Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative ‘Gbenga Sesan, however, provided some succour while speaking on the issue, “We are in constant communication with key stakeholders in the National Assembly and we have been assured that the Bill will soon be forwarded to President Buhari for assent”

“Given the President’s recent spate of refusal to assent to a number of Bills sent by the National Assembly, it is understood that the National Assembly is doing extra work to ensure that the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is not refused assent for technical reasons. A member of the Senate was recently quoted as saying that President Buhari refused his assent to 15 Bills in a single day, and we do not want to see the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill suffer such fate,” says Sesan

Speaking further on the Bill, Adeboye asserted that the Bill is poised to put Nigeria on the global map as a rights-respecting country. “This week, the Government of Germany, which currently chairs the Freedom Online Coalition, hosted the 7th Annual Freedom Online Conference, a multi-stakeholder event with governments, civil society, the private sector, and others – to share relevant information, develop joint strategies and combine efforts towards their mutual goal of a human rights-based Internet. We equally want to see Nigeria join in on these important questions and this can be done by ensuring the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill becomes law and reference legislation for other countries across the globe.”


For more information on this statement, please send a mail to


Paradigm Initiative Statement on Digital Rights Violations in Burundi

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In 2015, at the time of the challenges faced during the elections in Burundi, social networks had been shut down for a period of 10 days. Users bypassed this digital censorship by VPN solutions with far-reaching consequences.

In 2018, the Senate Chairman made a statement at a public meeting that officials in the country are too tied to their smartphones. The Senate Chairman has proposed to the government to tax each WhatsApp message at 500F CFA (1USD). Following this statement, an anonymous audio circulated on the social media in the country to inform citizens that the statement of the Senate Chairman was just to motivate officials in their work. This did nothing to reassure citizens.

On October 12, 2018, during the Open day organized by the Communications Regulatory Agency, the General Manager announced that major projects are being prepared for the ARCT: “the establishment of the new law on electronic communications, the implementation of the project of the establishment of the single network, the implementation of the broadband strategy in Burundi, the waste management of electronic and electrical equipment, the establishment of a CIRT (Cyber Incident Response Team). “

In view of this, and according to the Civil Society leaders in the country, a bill could be also prepared to tax social media in a context where no actor could oppose.

In this context, Paradigm Initiative calls the Burundian government to carry out reforms in strict compliance with its political commitments while respecting human rights online. Paradigm Initiative also invites the authorities of the country to abandon all projects of taxation on social media and avoid violation of digital rights and freedoms of Burundian citizens.

African governments using laws to stifle internet freedom – Report

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Many African governments have rolled out legislation and policies which enforce privacy violations, infringements to freedom of expression, access restrictions and hurt other digital rights, the Digital Rights in Africa 2018 report has revealed. The report prepared by Paradigm Initiative was launched at the Internet Governance Forum in Paris on Tuesday, November 13. 

Download the report (in English or French)

The report titled “Legislating Restriction: How African Governments Use Restrictive Laws,” is the third edition of the Digital Rights in Africa report.

According to  ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, “The 2016 and 2017 editions focused on Internet Shutdowns and Citizens fightback against digital rights abuses. The 2018 edition focuses on how governments across Africa have transitioned from solely brutal tactics of arrests, Internet and social media app disruptions, and imprisonment to more refined, subtle and apparently “legal’’ approaches – or those that supposedly respect the “rule of law’’ – in stifling digital rights in Africa.”

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Morocco, Tanzania and beyond, governments have begun to roll out legislation and policies which enforce privacy violations, infringements to freedom of expression, access restrictions and hurt other digital rights.

According to Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs of Paradigm Initiative, “Our 2018 Digital Rights in Africa Report takes a look at this trend across Africa and discusses the way forward for civil society as we continue in the fight for digital rights and freedoms on the continent”.

Download the report (in English or French)

This report highlights 8 countries across North, East, West and Central Africa where critical developments in the legal or policy space have conspired to hurt digital rights. These countries are Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, and Benin. Others are Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 48-page report is published in English and French and is available for free download on the Paradigm Initiative’s website.

The report also bemoans the role certain actions of China, Russia and the United States have impacted on rights in other rights in African countries.

According to the report, “The surprise withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council is another stark symptom of the strange times we are in… Beyond the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United States has lost some of its moral authority as an arbiter and defender of global human rights as a result of happenings within its own borders. These developments have emboldened hitherto repressive, but hesitant, state actors into acts that brazenly attempt to restrict human rights online and offline.”

“The increasing influence of China and Russia in global affairs is definitely changing perceptions about the thresholds of what is acceptable or not in human rights standards. Even more so, it would seem many African countries have begun to borrow a leaf from repressive foreign governments’ playbooks for violating digital rights,” the report continued.

Download the report (in English or French)

The report also laments the slow passage of laws with the potential to uphold digital rights, noting that, “Interestingly, as states across the continent rush towards the passage of legislation which violate digital rights, simultaneously, they have either refused to implement calls for the enactment of legislation which protect digital rights or have introduced delays in the passage of such laws and policies. For instance, there are only 23 countries with data protection legislation in effect on the continent, whereas data protection has become a crucial foundation for life in our digital age and the successful working of the digital economy.”


Arbitrary Arrests of Digital Rights Defenders Continue in Uganda

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Online freedom of speech continues to be restricted in Uganda as a human rights activist, Dr Stella Nyanzi was arrested and detained last week in Uganda. She was in custody for more than 48 hours for allegedly insulting the president, Yoweri Museveni and his late mother, Esiteri Kokundeka.

Paradigm Initiative, in a statement released on Thursday, condemned the arrest and asked the government to immediately release Dr Nyanzi.   

Nyanzi was also arrested last year for “abusive” and “demeaning” communication and was charged with two counts, one of Cyber Harassment contrary to Section 24 (1)(2)(a) of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 and Offensive Communication contrary to Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011.

According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern and Southern Africa, “We join Uganda’s civil society groups and Ugandans on Twitter, who are campaigning for her release. It is important to note that this detention by the police went on beyond the mandatory 48 hours as provided for in the Constitution  and is a gross violation of her fundamental human rights.”

Nyanzi was brought before the courts yesterday afternoon, at Buganda Road Court where she was charged with the offences of Cyber Harassment and Offensive Communication. The magistrate also charged her with harassing and attacking the privacy of the president. These charges come under the Computer Misuse Act of 2011. We find the charges unnecessary and an abuse of state power.

The much abused section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 says, “Any person who willfully and repeatedly uses electronic communication to disturb or attempts to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication whether or not a conversation ensues commits a misdemeanour and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-four currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.”

Nyanzi has now been remanded to Luzira prison until Friday when she will again be presented to the court to take a plea. Paradigm Initiative calls on the government of Uganda to drop the charges against Dr Nyanzi, and allow all Ugandans the right to criticise and even offend political office holders without fear.


For more information on this statement, please send a mail to

Paradigm Initiative Condemns New Internet Tax in Kenya

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The Kenyan government has ramped up its attack on internet access as the parliament on Thursday, September 20, approved a measure imposing excise duty on telephone and internet data services.

The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta left Kenyans surprised by recently proposing an increase in Internet Tax through the alteration of the Finance Bill 2018. This Bill was earlier declared illegal by the High Court.

This tax increase comes at a time when subscribers are also paying an increased fee on mobile money transfer services after the government raised excise duty from 10% to 20% in July 2018.

According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern and Southern Africa, “this action comes after a public outcry for a reduction on the tax on petroleum products. The president intimated that revenue had to come from somewhere and the first to suffer are Internet data services.”

The proposal to parliament by the president read, ‘Telephone and internet data services shall be charged excise duty at a rate of fifteen per cent of their excisable value.”

“Due to this approval, excise duty will increase on the telephone, Internet data and mobile phone services. Business will be greatly affected especially small businesses that rely heavily on mobile and Internet money transfer. Other businesses that will suffer by this tax introduction include online businesses such as Vlogging, online writing, e-commerce stores, telemarketing and blogging,” Ndungu added.

What this means is that 100 Kenya shillings worth of airtime that currently attracts 10 Kenya shillings tax will now see the Treasury earn an extra 15 Kenya shillings. This tax is estimated to affect over 44.1 million subscribers, going by the figure on mobile subscribers contained in Communications Authority of Kenya third quarter report  of to March 2018.

“The situation is disappointing since Kenyans are already among the most heavily taxed income earners in the world without any evidence as to how they benefit from these heavy taxes,” Ndungu concluded.

The Nigerian surveillance state: Neglected issues around Samuel Ogundipe’s arrest

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By Boye Adegoke 

The dust may have settled, the hashtags may have stopped trending, and Samuel Ogundipe may have been granted bail but important issues around his arrest remain. Samuel Ogundipe, Premium Times Journalist, was arrested and detained by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. His offence was his refusal to disclose the source of one of his stories. His bank account was also frozen. While the illegality or otherwise of Ogundipe’s arrest is a matter for the court to determine, there are many other important issues, generated by his arrest, that are not being interrogated. These issues are important and have serious implications for democracy and the application of rule of law in Nigeria in the digital age.

Certain facts about the arrest have since emerged to corroborate what is already suspected as the modus operandi of the Nigerian security agencies. According to a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists CPJ, Ogundipe’s colleague, Musikilu Mojeed was shown a file of information on Ogundipe by the police. The file contained alleged bank account statement and call history as received from Ogundipe’s bankers and telecommunication service provider respectively. Another colleague, Azeezat Adedigba was also quoted in the same report to have said that the police said they got her number from her telecommunication service provider.

These are very serious issues and they bring to fore, important questions surrounding citizens’ private calls and bank records being indiscriminately accessed by law enforcement agents in Nigeria. Without a doubt, it is effective for security agencies to leverage technology in the discharge of their duties, especially during an investigation. It is however important that this process itself be guided by the application of the “rule of law” and best global standards. The issue becomes more worrying, given the poor and abysmal human rights records of Nigerian security agencies.

The Nigerian 1999 Constitution as amended guarantees and protects “the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications.” In addition to this, Telecommunications Companies owe their customers a duty to protect their privacy and the personal information shared with them in trust. It does not seem that intermediaries (Banks and Telecommunications companies in this context) push back against requests by security agencies. It is problematic to grant every request made by law enforcement as that clearly represents a porous system that will be easily abused as is the case in question.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time law enforcement has demonstrated a lack of regard for due process. In December 2016, Ayodele Fayose, Ekiti State Governor and a leading opposition figure accused the Department of State Security Service (DSS) of leaking his telephone conversation with another opposition, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. The DSS never denied this, and never demonstrated justification (if any) for the act. The Nigerian surveillance state historically has poor accountability record as it has no defined frameworks or processes that are known to any Nigerian law. It is very disturbing that law enforcement agents have access to citizens’ private call records and bank transaction details without due process.

In 2013, the Nigeria Communications Commission released a draft guideline for lawful interception of communications and received public input for same. Five years later, that guideline remains what it is “A mere draft.” Also a Bill (Lawful Interception of Information) Bill, 2015 HB 35 introduced in the House of Representatives on the subject has not made much progress since 2015 when it was introduced.

In March 2018, the National Assembly passed the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB490), which it has unfortunately failed to transmit it to the President for assent. The Bill among other things provides legal frameworks that conform to global standards around Interference and surveillance of communication. Clause (5) subclause (3) of the Bill provides that; “There shall be clear procedures by which the private data of individuals, stored by intermediaries, can be accessed.” In addition, Clause (9) subclause (7) of the bill provides that “Government agencies shall obtain a search warrant based on probable cause before it can compel any service provider to disclose a user’s private communications or documents stored online”.

In addition to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, the Data Protection Bill and the Protection of Personal Information Bill provide for the protection of private data. While these two bills are yet to be passed by the National Assembly, the President’s assent to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is key to bringing sanity into the Nigerian surveillance state. Innocent citizens will be assured of legal protection and intermediaries will regain users trust. Seeing how the absence of a digital rights law endangers the privacy of citizens and even press freedom, it is crucial that the leadership of the national assembly immediately transmit the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill to the president for his assent.

Boye Adegoke is the Program Manager, Digital Rights (Anglophone West Africa) at Paradigm Initiative. This article was first published on The Guardian.

I’m headed to AfriSIG 2018 and here’s why…

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By Babatunde Okunoye

As a research officer at Paradigm Initiative, my daily work involves a number of interesting tasks. I lead research on Paradigm Initiative’s annual Digital Rights in Africa report, together with a network of researchers within our organisation and across the continent. I also produce policy briefs and blog posts and manage research partnerships with local, regional and international organisations.

As a member of my organisation’s policy advocacy and communications teams, I’m also involved in policy advocacy and communications in defence of digital rights and inclusion across Africa. When internet shutdowns, arrests of citizens for exercising their rights online, digital rights/inclusion limiting policies or any other act or process violating digital rights/inclusion raise their ugly head anywhere in Africa and the world, I participate in teams which conduct advocacy visits and communications campaigns to challenge these actions.

If you’ve also attended Paradigm Initiative’s Internet Freedom Forum (now Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum), then you’ll probably also know I’ve been part of the organising team delivering and managing one of Africa’s most prominent ICT policy events.

Although I have become a relatively experienced professional in the media development sector, I have always had that need to take my knowledge, expertise and experience to another level through interaction with expert faculty and international networking opportunities. So when applications for the 2018 African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) were announced, I didn’t think too long before sending in my application. Thankfully, I received the good news that I was accepted to be a part of the 2018 class.

AfriSIG, organised by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and the African Union Commission, has emerged as the leading platform for developing the next generation of internet governance professionals in Africa. In 2017, AfriSIG was awarded with the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prize for international and regional cooperation.

AfriSIG’s importance can also be measured by the impact its alumni have made on the internet governance field in Africa. Luckily I have encountered a lot of AfriSIG alumni during the course of my work. Here I share my perception of the impact of two AfriSIG alumni, both of the 2016 class. Adeboye Adegoke, then Paradigm Initiative Nigeria’s ICT policy manager for Nigeria, passed through AfriSIG 2016 to emerge to a bigger role as Paradigm Initiative’s (formerly Paradigm Initiative Nigeria) policy manager for Anglophone West Africa. Koliwe Majama, then policy officer at the Media Institute for Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter, transitioned to an impactful career as an independent consultant and as AfriSIG coordinator.

As I pack my bags in October for AfriSIG 2018, I similarly look forward to the wonderful learning and networking experience that AfriSIG presents, and the chance to make a greater impact on internet governance in Africa.



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I became aware of AjegunleLIFE through my computer teacher who usually volunteers for the program.

My initial plan after I graduated from secondary school, was to learn a skill (Makeup). But when I heard about the LIFE program from my teacher, I chose to join the program because I wanted to learn more about ICT and entrepreneurship, which I know will be useful to run my makeup business.

Before I joined the program, my ICT knowledge was negligible. I was not taught computer in the secondary school I attended, and the school didn’t have computers. The few times I had access to a computer, I just played games on it, because that is the only thing I knew how to do with a computer.

When I joined the training I was prepared to go an extra mile to get the knowledge that I wanted. And am glad I did. I learnt a lot. Now If I wish to apply for a job, I can write a good CV and proudly include my ICT skills. Also, I have a good knowledge of entrepreneurship that I can use to establish my own business.

My plan after the program is to acquire makeup skill I initially wanted to learn before the program. I plan to use the knowledge I have on entrepreneurship and social media marketing to promote the business. I also have plans to further my education in a higher institution.

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