October 21st, 2023:
As countries across the world commemorate the Global Encryption Day today, Paradigm Initiative (PIN) condemns the stringent ban on using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in Tanzania which undermines the rights of Tanzanian citizens to access information, communicate securely, and express themselves freely online. PIN believes that VPNs are a key enabler of human rights online and are a vital defense against censorship
The stringent ban was announced by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) on October 14, a few days before the international commemoration of Global Encryption Day. The TCRA cited that the announcement was consistent with Regulation 16(2) of the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2020. PIN condemns this announcement as it will clamp down on free speech, limit access to information, threaten the right to privacy and expose citizens who have been relying on VPNs to cyber threats and unauthorised surveillance.
“VPNs are an important part of digital democracy as they can safeguard citizens’ political rights online. In Africa, it has become common for governments to shut down or throttle the internet during electoral periods or to quell protests. VPNs have been providing refuge to millions of citizens and allowing citizens to exercise their rights to express themselves online and participate in civic discourse freely,” said Mr. Sani Suleiman, PIN’s Programs Officer.
Paradigm Initiative, which is a pan-African organisation that advocates for digital rights and inclusion across the continent further challenged key stakeholders to reject efforts aimed at undermining encryption.
The organisation underscored the importance of strong encryption citing that it cannot be overstated. “It is a cornerstone of a safer digital world for us all. The guarantee of secure and private communication is not only a fundamental human right but also an essential component of maintaining trust in the global digital ecosystem,” Sani said.
Encryption, he added, ensures that personal data, online communications, financial and sensitive information are shielded from prying eyes, enhancing the safety and security of individuals, businesses, and society as a whole. It is also essential for protecting freedom of expression and association online.
“Any attempts to weaken this shield are tantamount to compromising the security of all who rely on it. As such, we remain steadfast in our commitment to repel any proposals that threaten to compromise this fundamental technology,” he continued.
Paradigm Initiative noted that currently, encryption is under threat. In recent years, there has been an upward trend in governments purchasing surveillance technologies capable of undermining end-to-end encryption, often done under the guise of national security or public safety. This is of concern in repressive regimes, where encryption is used by journalists, activists, and human rights defenders to communicate and share information safely.
The organisation is deeply concerned about the potential impact of these efforts to undermine encryption on human rights and democracy. Encryption is essential for protecting freedom of expression, association, and assembly online. It is also essential for protecting the right to privacy and security.
When encryption is weakened, it makes it easier for governments and other entities to spy on communications, steal data, and censor online activity. This can have a chilling effect on free speech and association and can also put people at risk of physical harm.
On Global Encryption Day, Paradigm Initiative therefore;
- Recommends end-to-end encryption and that VPNs be legally available for use by everyone, more so human rights defenders, journalists, and others at risk around the world.
- Urges governments and the private sector to reject all proposals that undermine end-to-end encryption. But rather support policies that enhance, strengthen, and promote the use of strong encryption to protect individuals globally.
Strong encryption is a critical tool toward a safer world for us all. We must protect it.
About Paradigm Initiative
Paradigm Initiative has worked to advance internet freedom in Nigeria since 2007 and has implemented multi-country programs within the African region since 2017. Throughout the African Continent, PIN promotes a rights-respecting continent through a team of digital rights advocates dotted in subregional offices in Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The organisation’s interventions are spread across more than 28 African countries. Paradigm Initiative pushes for an Internet that is open, accessible, and affordable to all.