Wednesday, 2 November 2016

SumTips: 5 Current Limitations on African Internet Freedom

Ugandan flag and map
Internet censorship has been going strong in Africa since the continent’s first official act of online censorship took place in 1996 (Zambia decided to remove a banned newspaper from the internet).

More recently, Uganda’s Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa provided an opportunity to explore the findings of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa’s (CIPESA’s) State of Internet Freedom in Africa 2016 report. Its results highlight 5 important trends:

1.    African governments are increasingly turning to internet shutdowns as a method of limiting freedom of expression and access to information.
  • Uganda blocked access to social media in 2016 during its presidential elections and presidential swearing-in ceremony. 
  • In 2015, Burundi responded to public protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza by shutting down social media networks.

2.    Courts of law are used to limit freedom of expression online and to prosecute journalists and activists for their words.
  • In Tanzania, 10 social media users have been charged with violations such as “insulting the president” since a cybercrime law went into effect in September 2015.
  • Zambia searches for and prosecutes citizen journalists who are critical of the government.

3.    Online surveillance, including monitoring communications, is routinely used by African governments.
  • In January and February 2016, 10 social media users in Kenya were arrested or questioned because of their online communications.
  • Rwanda actively monitors citizen communications.

4.    Ongoing blockages of websites and SMS services further limit access to information and modes of communication.
  • Ethiopia blocks hundreds of websites and shutdown the entire internet twice in 2016.
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo recently began to block websites that are critical of the government.

5.    Although less common, removal of online content is also utilized by governments.
  • In 2013 and 2014, Zimbabwean authorities routinely pressured social media users to remove content from various platforms.
CIPESA asks that African governments respect the human rights to freedom of expression, access to information and privacy; that civil society and media advocate for internet freedom as a human right; and that telecom companies and ISPs actively work to protect the privacy of their subscribers. We couldn’t agree more.

Read more, know your rights, surf secure and stay Rando!

Image credit of BOLDG/
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