Concern on the growing trend of stringent regulation of the internet in East African states

Publisher: African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights     Banjul,

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), acting through the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur) Commissioner Lawrence Mute, and the Country Rapporteur responsible for monitoring the human rights situation in Kenya and Tanzania Commissioner Solomon Dersso, wishes to express concern on the growing trend of States in East Africa adopting stringent regulation measures on the internet and internet platforms.

The Commission is in particular concerned about the adoption of the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018 in Tanzania which introduced licensing requirements for bloggers who are now required to pay up to 2,100,000 Tanzanian Shillings (around USD 930) for the licences. In Uganda, the Commission is concerned by the coming into force of the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill 2018 on 01 July 2018, which requires users of "over the top" services such as social media platforms to pay UGX 200 (USD 0.05), per user, per day of access. Finally, the Commission is concerned by the directive issued by the Kenya Film and Classification Board (KFCB) on 14 May 2018, requiring licences for anyone posting videos for public exhibition or distribution online on their social media accounts.

These regulations may negatively impact the ability of users to gain affordable access to the Internet, which goes against States’ commitment to protect the right of every individual to receive information, as well as the right to express and disseminate one’s opinion within the law which is provided under Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Commission wishes to respectfully remind States of the Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa (ACHPR/Res. 362(LIX) 2016) which recognises the importance of the Internet in advancing human and peoples’ rights in Africa, particularly the right to freedom of information and expression. Further, the 2018 Joint Declaration on Media Independence and Diversity in the Digital Age stresses the positive obligation of States to create a general enabling environment of promoting universal access to the Internet.

The Commission urges Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya to ensure that regulations do not undermine their commitment to ensure freedom of expression and access to information on the Internet and social media platforms.

See also: APC welcomes ACHPR Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa

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