A digital rights expert and the executive director of Paradigm Initiative, Mr ‘Gbenga Sesan has bemoaned the spate of attacks on internet freedom in Africa. Sesan was speaking at RightsCon, an international conference on digital rights recently in Toronto, Canada.
Sesan, while speaking on efforts by Paradigm Initiative and its partners to protect digital rights and freedom on the continent, said “At Paradigm Initiative, we do this annual report focused on the state of digital rights in Africa. In 2017, we looked at twenty-one African countries and one of the trends we have seen is that things are getting worse. In terms of clamp down on the media, in terms of clamp down on citizens, in terms of using excuses like national security to shut down the internet, things continue to go downhill in many countries across Africa.”
“In Nigeria, there is a new proposal on hate speech bill, and the definition of hate speech is very interesting actually, an insult is considered hate speech. So we have a situation where citizens would not be able to express themselves freely online. Next month, we will release our report on Nigeria and I can tell you right now that things are not looking great for Nigeria in terms of respect for internet freedom.”
Paradigm Initiative recently conducted an online pool on freedom of expression online in Nigeria, and it was discovered that 40% of respondents feel unsafe expressing themselves online.
Sesan also used the opportunity to talk about Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill that was recently passed by the National Assembly. He said the bill would ensure that digital rights are taken seriously in Nigeria and that those who violate these rights are held accountable under the law.
“We are excited about the passage of the bill by the national assembly. We hope the national assembly would expedite actions on transmitting the bill to the presidency for the presidential assent. Our hope is that the bill is signed into law before activities for the next elections in 2019 take centre stage.
Paradigm Initiative held three sessions at the international conference and all were focused on entrenching understanding of issues affecting digital rights and freedom in Africa. Other members of Paradigm Initiative at the conference were the Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs, and Boye Adegoke, the Digital Rights Program Manager for Anglophone Africa.