Paradigm Initiative Holds Two-day Workshop for Stakeholders from Anglophone West Africa

Mr. Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative
Mr. Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative

Paradigm Initiative held a two-day workshop on October 2 and 3, 2019 in Abuja for participants from Anglophone West African countries to improve their understanding of emerging issues on digital rights and sharpen their skills in  handling digital rights and related issues.

The workshop was dedicated to understanding and navigating the policy and regulatory landscape related to digital rights and security, as well as learning advocacy and engagement strategies for those who work or are interested in promoting and defending human rights online in Africa.

Participants were drawn for civil society, technical community, the media, etc from countries in Anglophone West Africa namely Liberia, Gambia, Ghana, Sierra-Leone and Nigeria.

Topics on digital rights as human rights, digital identity and contemporary challenges for data protection & privacy rights, , pro-rights ICT policy: processes, instruments, laws, main actors (regional, local), advocacy strategies and approaches, building an advocacy agenda using the African declaration, mainstreaming digital rights and inclusiveness into cybersecurity policy and coalition building: lessons from the Netrights coalition; tackling question like how do we become more responsive and innovative about how we react to digital rights issues as they emerging?

Discussions were had on the Nigerian Digital Rights and Freedom Bill concentrating on what should happen differently in the 9th Assembly. One of the lacuna that was identified in the previous campaign was the fact that the executive particularly the presidency was not engaged in the advocacy. There is a need to work on citizens engagement and mobilization on emerging issues in digital rights.

The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to do a role-play in planning for a campaign strategy on digital rights issue in the respective countries. The breakout session had participants discuss emerging issues and threats to Digital Rights in participants’ countries; strategize on advocacy for policy change on the issues; identify likely resistance; map out the policy terrain, the principal actors, the political relations and the interests at stake. Draw out a plan and the strategic approach to achieve results. Participants prepared campaign strategy based on the issues affecting digital rights in their various countries.

A case study on the Nigerian Cybercrime Act 2015 was discussed by participants who highlighted the challenge of the law. The most important challenge was that though the Cybercrimes Act was much needed and it was enactment, the legislation has provisions in it that are unconstitutional given that these have been used by the government to muzzle free speech online in Nigeria and have been continually used to silence dissenting voices as the legislation to gives legitimacy to actions which infringe on online rights such as freedom of expression.

Recommendations from the discussions on the case study were that countries that are still developing cybercrime laws should do so with respect for human rights framework and stakeholders have to ensure that there are legislation and policies that make the cyberspace safe for all.