MRA Launches Policy Brief on the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill

Ms. Morisola Alabi, Legal Officer, Media Rights Agenda
Ms. Morisola Alaba, Legal Officer, Media Rights Agenda

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) launched a “policy brief” on the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill at an advocacy workshop for civil society organisation which took place on June 28 and 29, 2017 in Abuja.

The policy brief aims to enhance the understanding of the civil society on the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill especially for use in their advocacy engagement to policy and decision makers as well as other relevant actors.

The brief explains the fundamental rights and freedom which the bill seeks to protect such as the right to privacy online, protection of identity of internet users, privacy and protection of personal data and information, freedom of opinion online, freedom of expression online, freedom of association and assembly online, e-governance, access to education online, financial transparency, among others.

It further states the need for the bill to become a law given the fact that other national legislation related to the internet in Nigeria are far from being consistent or in conformity with international human right standards. Some of these internet related legislation seek to criminalizes some internet activities and in the event limiting such rights and freedom as freedom of expression online, right to information online, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, etc.

The brief pointed out that there is no data protection law, noting that the personal data and information of virtually all Nigerians are put at risk and the public institutions and private entities which collect the information are under no legal obligation to protect the data, while affected citizens whose personal information or data are wrongfully exposed, including as a result of negligence, have no recourse to legal redress or protection.

The policy brief also emphasises of the objectives of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill which are to: promote the freedoms of expression, assembly and association online; guarantee the fundamental privacy rights of citizens and define the legal framework regarding surveillance, clearly outline the provisions of lawful and authorized interception of communications within the digital environment and online without sacrificing the freedom of citizens or their constitutional right to communicate freely, accord data privacy more priority and thus safeguarding sensitive citizen data currently being held by numerous government and privacy institutions, and guarantee the application of human rights which apply offline within the digital environment and online.

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill also seeks to provide sufficient safeguards against abuse and provide opportunities for redress where infringement occurs; safeguard the digital liberty of Nigerians, now and in the future; and seek the guarantee of the inviolability of communications, except by order of  Court obtained in accordance to due process of Law and equip the judiciary with the necessary legal framework to protect human rights online.