The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) and other stakeholders attending the African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF) have called on governments to prioritize the digital rights of citizens across the different continents of the world.
The call was made at the launch of AFEX’s baseline report on Internet Freedom in Africa which took place on December 4, 2017 at a parallel session during the sixth African Internet Governance Forum which held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
Participants at the session which included AFEX member organisations and other stakeholders in internet governance endorsed the recommendations of the report, particularly the call on governments to amend and repeal laws that are inimical to freedom of expression; the adoption of Internet laws/legislation that are progressive and rights-respecting to ensure/guarantee online freedom, the safety and security of all citizens and the need to refrain governments from coercing service providers to monitor, filter, block and shut down the internet and other communications networks.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were also urged to resist and defy unjustified orders from governments to shut down the Internet; endeavour to invest more in the ICT sector and expand services across the respective countries they operate in order to help bridge the rural-urban digital gap; insist and demand court orders or warrants before disclosing user information or communications or take-down content; proactively engage Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and join the advocacy against governments’ abuse of users’ rights such as network shutdowns.
In addition, civil society (including academia and media) are advised to conduct regular monitoring and evaluation of the ICT sectors in their respective countries to highlight developments (positive and negative) for proactive and timely interventions to be rolled out; Governments, Service providers and other stakeholders were also encouraged to be proactively engaged to ensure that rights-respecting issues are factored into formulation of policy and other interventions.
The stakeholders also called for advocacy for the repeal of penal codes and sections of legislation that criminalise speech, as well as advocacies for the withdrawal and/or review of Bills which have repressive provisions. They also urged the education, sensitisation and building of the capacity of people on their rights, responsible use of the internet, online safety and other internet-related issues.
The stakeholders also called on the Judiciary to consider the supreme interest of the public in countries where court orders are required for governments to shut down the internet and also protect the rights of citizens at all times.
They also advised internet users to use the internet responsibly and respect the rights of other internet users at all times, actively participate in rights-based campaigns and speak out against threats to internet freedoms.
The report was based on the assessment of the internet environment in eight countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. It highlighted prevailing and emerging issues, such as access, incidents of network disruptions, high cost of data, challenges and developments in the internet landscape in terms of regulation and practice.
Findings from the report showed that network disruptions become rampant during important national events such as elections and protests and are aimed at limiting expression and free flow of information online.
The report hinted at the growing number of individuals being assaulted for their online expression and activities with impunity.
For more information about the report, please visit http://bit.ly/2BxcM0c.