African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) has called on all stakeholders including national Governments, African Citizens and the Civil Society to protect Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet.
This call comes in the wake of the internet penetrating the nooks and crannies of the global polity, with issues relating to Internet Rights and Freedoms dominating contemporary rhetoric.
At its which held from 21 October to 04 November 2016 in Banjul, the Islamic Republic of the Gambia, the commission in its resolution ACHPR/Res. 362(LIX) of 2016 recognised the need to bridge the digital divide which has significantly disadvantaged the African continent.
Recognising the importance of the Internet in advancing human and peoples’ rights in Africa, particularly the right to freedom of information and expression, the commission expressed over “the emerging practice of State Parties of interrupting or limiting access to telecommunication services such as the Internet, social media and messaging services, increasingly during elections.”
The Commission in its Resolution 362 took note of the “African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms”, which was developed by a coalition of African civil society organisations and adopted during the 9th Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, in September 2014, which elaborated on the principles necessary to uphold human and people’s rights on the Internet, and to cultivate an Internet environment that can best meet Africa’s social and economic development needs and goals.
The Resolution recognised other international instruments on Internet Rights and Freedoms such as the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa; the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution HRC/RES/20/8 of 2012 which urged all States “to promote and facilitate access to the Internet and international cooperation aimed at the development of media and information and communications facilities in all countries;” as well as the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet, adopted on 01 June 2011 by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Organisation of American States (OAS), Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.
The Commission also expressed its conviction “that it is of critical importance that clear and comprehensive principles are established to guide the promotion and protection of human rights in the online environment”
The Commission urged States Parties to respect and take legislative and other measures to guarantee, respect and protect citizen’s right to freedom of information and expression through access to Internet services.”
The Commission urges African citizens to exercise their right to freedom of information and expression on the Internet responsibly.
The commission also advised the Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to take note of developments in the Internet age during the revision of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, which was adopted by the Commission by 2002”
The Commission further urged State Parties, civil society and other stakeholders to collaborate with the Special Rapporteur by contributing to the process of revising the Declaration to consider Internet rights.”