Drafting an African internet bill of rights

Publisher: APCNews     JOHANNESBURG, 14 February 2014

In Africa, we are witnessing growing threats from governments and businesses to exercise greater control of the Internet, including, most recently, through extensive surveillance mechanisms. As access to the internet slowly increases across the continent, the broader African political leadership seems to either be learning or replicating international worst practices, or a mutual agreement to diminish the civic spaces through a series of national level pieces of legislation.

Against this backdrop, thirty civil society activists from sixteen African countries met on 12-13 February 2014 in Johannesburg to begin a dialogue towards the development of an African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms.

The meeting, co-organised by Global Partners Digital and APC, covered an in-depth discussion of priority issues that need to be addressed in Africa. Among the them were internet access and affordability, the balance between freedom of expression and censorship,and deepening democracy, and many other pertinent issues.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa expressed enthusiasm about the event. “Our entry point is around the 3 A’s: accessibility, affordability, and availability, and comes from the perspective of how the media engages with the internet. And this is not just leaving it with the media, but also looking at how citizens in general, a wide spectrum of citizens including youth, women and marginalized groups, engage with the internet. That is why we push the 3 A’s,” said Zoe Titus of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

“We want internet to be available publicly. You need to have it in your school, your workplace, your community. So that the poorest of the poor can go somewhere and still have internet access. That’s what I want governments to do, to make it possible to everyone to have access according to their needs even if their means is no income at all,” said Anriette Esterhuysen from APC.

The draft Declaration will be launched at the global Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul in September 2014, with public consultations held throughout the drafting. “I see this as a positive step forward for African countries to maximize the potential that the internet holds for their development,” concluded Edet Ojo from Media Rights Agenda.

Image from abstract reproduced under Creative Commons license.

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