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‘African governments using laws to stifle internet freedom’

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Many African governments have policies that enforce privacy violations, infringements to freedom of expression, access restrictions and hurt other digital rights, a report has revealed.

The 2018 edition of the Digital Rights in Africa report by Paradigm Initiative, which was released at the Internet Governance Forum in Paris, yesterday, confirmed this.

According to World Internet Stat, Africa, Nigeria leads the continent with about 105 million users.

World Internet Stat is home to 1.28 billion people with about 464.9 million internet users, which is 31 per cent of Africa’s population.

The report entitled ‘Legislating Restriction: How African Governments Use Restrictive Laws’ is the third edition of the Digital Rights in Africa report.

Executive director of Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan, said: “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 (DRC), 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.

“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,” said the director of programmes at Paradigm Initiative, Tope Ogundipe.

This report highlighted eight 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, Benin, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon and DRC.

The 48-page report, which is published in English and French, is available for free download on Paradigm Initiative’s website.

“The surprise withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is another stark symptom of the strange times we are in. Beyond the UNHRC, 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,” the report added.


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Gbenga SesanUNHRC
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