Why Africans need to embrace digital rights and protect themselves from government violation

Tope Ogundipe urged Africans to use their power in the defence of digital rights and other human rights across the continent.

Tope Ogundipe, digital rights expert and director of programs at Paradigm Initiative made the call while speaking recently at a digital rights workshop organised by Internews and Paradigm Initiative in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Ogundipe, who facilitated several sessions at the workshop, said “Citizens cannot afford not to get involved in the advocacy in defence of digital rights. Digital rights are as important as other human rights, as the digital space has become a most important centre for economic activities, access to emergency services and platform for exercising freedom of speech and free press”

Violations of digital rights across Africa

Many African countries have recorded several cases of digital rights violations in the last few years. These include:

1. The 2017 Internet shutdown in Cameroon where the government cut off Anglophone Cameroon’s access to the Internet.

2. The arrest and persecution of bloggers and journalists in countries including Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia.

“The absence of data privacy and protection law in the majority of African countries makes an easy target of data breach and abuse."

“Citizens’ rights to express themselves online and offline, gather and disseminate information and ideas are important to the fate of democracy in Africa. Not only that, absence of data privacy and protection, illegal and blanket surveillance, internet shutdowns, and other rights violation all impact negatively on democracy and the economic development of a country. It is the centrality of digital rights that makes them the business of all citizens,” Ogundipe said.

The digital rights workshop was supported by Cameroon-based Afro Leadership and Centre for Youth Education and Economic Development held over a 4-day period between May 2 and May 6, 2018,  with over 60 participants from different regions of Cameroon.

This call came few weeks after digital rights experts across Africa nations pushed for the replication of Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill by other African countries in order to energise the tech industry.

The experts made the call at the 6th Internet Freedom Forum, an international conference organised by Paradigm Initiative, in Abuja between April 24 to Thursday, April 26, 2018.

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