Highlighting some of our recent work and activities
CIPESA At RightsCon 2020
This week, we look forward to participating at RighsCon 2020 where we will host a session and participate in others. We are hosting a session titled “Digital Rights and Disability: A Framework for Measuring ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in Africa”. The session is scheduled for July 28 at 9:15 Coordinated Universal Time / 12:15 PM East African Time. While Covid-19 continues to ravage the world, there is growing concern that critical messages about the disease that are disseminated by health authorities, telecom companies, and broadcasters are not reaching persons with visual and hearing impairments. However, even before Covid-19 persons with disabilities were often excluded from mainstream information access.
The workshop explores a framework for assessing whether African countries and communication companies are complying with their ICT and disability rights obligations as enshrined in the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), SDGs, and national policy frameworks related to digital accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Other sessions where CIPESA staff will feature as speakers include:
New Influencers: Putting Digital Rights on the Policy Agenda which will discuss social exclusion and related human rights violations in the context of digital ID systems in Africa.
Date and Time: July 29 at 11:15 AM Eastern Time / 18:15 PM East African Time
The Dark Side of Digital ID: Digital ID, exclusion and human rights in Africa will bring together, primarily, local activists, NGO representatives and researchers working in Africa to discuss social exclusion and related human rights violations in the context of digital ID systems in Africa.
Date and Time: July 31 at 15:00 PM Central European Time | 16:00 East African Time
Ownership or rights? What’s the path to achieving true agency over data? This session will discuss what the future of data governance could look like, including areas such as the benefits and the limitations around property rights for data.
Date and Time: 29 July at 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time | 18:00 PM East African Time
CIPESA Fellowship Programme 2020
This month, we announced the 2020 cohort of CIPESA Fellows. The fellowship programme was introduced in 2017, with the aim of increasing the quality, diversity and regularity of research and media reporting on ICT, democracy, and human rights in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the nine fellows will primarily focus their energies on researching Covid-19 related censorship and surveillance practices and policy/regulatory responses by governments and private actors; and documenting trends and developments in technology for public good policy and practice. Read more
Join the conversation and share your thoughts on digital rights in Africa #InternetFreedomAfrica
CIPESA Submission to UN Special Rapporteur Spotlights Rights Concerns in Africa’s Covid-19 Response
Many African governments have employed heavy-handed methods in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. These measures, both offline and online, have undermined various rights and there are fears that they might be entrenched after the pandemic subsides.
In response, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly issued detailed key principles which governments and law enforcement agencies should follow to avoid human rights abuses. During consultations to inform the guidelines, CIPESA made submissions to the Special Rapporteur, highlighting major rights concerns in various African countries’ Covid-19 response. Read more
Content Moderation In The Shadow of Covid-19
As the Covid-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, the importance of technology platforms and their real world impact has never been clearer. Various platforms are being used to communicate, assemble, research the virus, provide mutual aid, and more. CIPESA joined 74 organisations and individuals in signing a letter to technology platforms urging them to address digital rights gaps and concerns which are emerging as a result of the actions they are taking on the platforms. The statement noted that many platforms have increased their reliance on automated content moderation during the pandemic, while simultaneously removing misinformation and apparently inaccurate information about Covid-19 at an unprecedented rate. Read more.
Call for Proposals: Round Three of the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF)
We are pleased to invite proposals for the third round of the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF), which supports digital rights work across the continent through flexible and rapid response grants.
The current call is particularly interested in proposals for work related to Covid-19 response measures, how they affect the internet rights landscape, and how to redress any resulting harms to rights and freedoms. This effort is essential because, even in pandemic times, governments must respect rights and not abuse emergency powers. Moreover, many actors need access to credible information and research to inform their own work on awareness-raising and holding authorities to account during and in the aftermath of Covid-19. Read more. A Win At A Time: Campaigning for Reduced Data Costs in Malawi
According to financial statements issued by Airtel Malawi in June 2018, the company recorded profits of 588% for the year ended December 2019. However, the profit comes on the back of pricing which civil society notes is beyond reach of millions of Malawians. In a joint statement issued on July 13, 2020, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), CIPESA, and other organisations urged the government to review the taxation regime for the technology sector and take proactive steps to ensure universal and affordable access to telecommunications services especially in view of Covid-19 restrictions some of which have led to increased reliance on digital technologies. Following the appeal, the Minister of Information tasked the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to take measures to reduce internet tariffs.
Analysis of Ethiopia’s Law on Hate Speech and Disinformation
In March 2020, Ethiopia enacted the Hate Speech and Disinformation Prevention and Suppression Proclamation to address hate speech and disinformation, which have historically troubled the country. The Proclamation appears well-intentioned judging from its objectives. These are stated as: “to protect freedom of expression while suppressing all forms of hatred and discrimination; promote tolerance, civil discourse and dialogue, mutual respect and strengthen democratic governance; and to control and suppress the dissemination and proliferation of hate speech, disinformation, and other related false and misleading information.”
The pushback against internet shutdowns in Africa received a boost last month when the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice ruled that the 2017 internet shutdown in Togo was illegal. This followed another win just over a year ago when, in January 2019, the Zimbabwe High Court ruled that the state-initiated internet shutdown that same month was illegal.
However, barely a week after the ECOWAS ruling, Ethiopia initiated a nationwide shutdown, thus serving a reminder of the persistent threat of internet shutdowns on the continent. Read more
Promoting Rural Broadband Access Through Partnerships and Policy Reform
As part of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2020 deliberations, we joined the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), the Association of Progressive Communications (APC), and the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) in sharing insights on efforts to address the rural access gap through unique partnerships and policy reform in various regions.
This follows on from the development of a Rural Broadband Policy Frameworkwhich provides guidance for policymakers and other decision makers on policy approaches most likely to increase broadband infrastructure and services in underserved rural areas. See video Tracking Responses to Disinformation in Sub Saharan Africa
CIPESA joined Global Partners Digital (GPD), ARTICLE 19, PROTEGE QV and the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria to launch an interactive map to track and analyse disinformation laws, policies and patterns of enforcement across Sub-Saharan Africa.
The map offers a birds-eye view of trends in state responses to disinformation across the region, as well as in-depth analysis of the state of play in individual countries, using a bespoke framework to assess whether laws, policies and other state responses are human rights-respecting.
We note that speculation, false and misleading information circulating online are a challenge, not only in Africa but across the world, yet legislative means against misinformation often undermine free speech and media. The tracker is thus a great resource for activists, to drive evidence-based advocacy, policy engagement and litigation. See more about the Disinformation Tracker here.
Understanding The Digital Threats Contributing to the Shrinking Civic Space in Africa
A study entitled Civil society in the digital age in Africa: identifying threats and mounting pushbacks was undertaken by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria and CIPESA to explore the extent of state-sponsored digital challenges that civil society in Africa is faced with. It illustrates the challenges faced by civil society organisations and the importance of digital security measures.
The study maps the national legislative and policy threats against civil society in Egypt, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia, and shows how these digital threats not only limit the operations and existence of civic society but also impede the enjoyment of human rights such as the freedoms of association, assembly and the right to freedom of expression.