Tracking Covid-19 and Digital Rights in Africa

One Year In: Covid-19 Deepening Africa’s Democratic Regression

While the Arab Spring was a turning point on digital rights in the region, Covid-19 could be another profoundly negative watershed moment. ;xNLx;;xNLx;Since April 2020, we have been documenting the relationship between digital rights and the Covid-19 response in Africa. A plethora of regressive measures were introduced in fighting the pandemic, and they have starkly undermined democracy, marked by a dwindling respect for rights to expression, information, assembly, and privacy.;xNLx;;xNLx;In many instances, these measures resulted in a lower level of stakeholder engagement in public affairs and a decline in governments’ transparency and accountability.;xNLx;;xNLx;Scroll through some of our work on these issues in this interactive timeline!

2020-03-11 01:25:05

Covid-19 Declared A Pandemic

"First, prepare and be ready. Second, detect, protect and treat. Third, reduce transmission. Fourth, innovate and learn." World Health Orgnisation Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

2020-03-16 03:07:07

Covid-19 Twitter Thread by @cipesaug

By January 2020, we were concerned about Covid-19. It was only a matter of time before a pandemic was declared. We started tracking some of the online narratives in different countries.

2020-03-27 03:22:53

Covid-19 in Africa: When is Surveillance Necessary and Proportionate?

As of March 25, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 2,245 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in 44 countries and 58 deaths in 12 countries in Africa. For a continent of 1.2 billion people across 54 countries, these numbers are still relatively low, but could potentially escalate. The head of the WHO has advised African governments “to prepare for the worst and prepare today.”

2020-03-28 03:22:53

How Technology is Aiding the Covid-19 Fight in Africa

Various governments have been quick to encourage mobile money use for local transactions and payment for goods and services in lieu of cash, to stem the contagion. In response, mobile network operators have increased daily limits and waived fees on nominal transfers via mobile money. Effective March 17, for 90 days, Kenya’s Safaricom increased the daily transaction limit via M-Pesa from Kenya Shillings (KES) 140,000 to KES 300,000 (USD 1,400 to USD 3,000) and waived fees off peer-to-peer transfers up to USD 10. Airtel and MTN have done the same in their major markets including Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Sudan, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

2020-04-04 14:02:42

States Use of Digital Surveillance Technologies to Fight Pandemic Must Respect Human Rights

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global public health emergency that requires a coordinated and large-scale response by governments worldwide. However, States’ efforts to contain the virus must not be used as a cover to usher in a new era of greatly expanded systems of invasive digital surveillance.

2020-04-28 03:07:07

CIPESA Submission to UN Special Rapporteur Spotlights Rights Concerns in Africa’s Covid-19 Response

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly has issued detailed key principles which governments and law enforcement agencies should follow to avoid human rights abuses. During consultations to inform the guidelines, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) made submissions to the Special Rapporteur, highlighting major rights concerns in various African countries’ Covid-19 response.

2020-05-03 14:02:42

World Press Freedom Day: Joint Emergency Appeal For Journalism and Media Support

To mark World Press Freedom Day 2020, CIPESA joined the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), numerous GFMD members, the International Civil Society Organization on the Safety of Journalists Coalition (ICSO SoJ Coalition), partners, and affiliate networks in launching an emergency appeal for journalism and media support in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

2020-05-15 03:07:07

Uganda’s Social Media Tax Undermining Covid-19 Fight

In Uganda, the government and other agencies have utilised social media as one of the avenues for disseminating information to citizens, including providing status updates on confirmed cases, as well as running public health and safety campaigns. However, the effectiveness of social media to reach a wider audience in Uganda has likely been undermined by the social media tax, which the finance ministry introduced in July 2018. The tax on so-called Over-the-Top (OTT) services requires telecom subscribers to pay a daily subscription in order to access popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp.

2020-06-04 06:45:39

African Internet Rights Alliance (AIRA) Denounces Restrictions on Freedoms in Kenya and Nigeria

The African Internet Rights Alliance (AIRA) has expressed deep concern about the use of cybercrimes legislation to restrict rights and freedoms in Kenya and Nigeria. In turn, the alliance has petitioned the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression to help redress the situation in the two countries. AIRA has urged the two Special Rapporteurs to publicly call on the governments of Kenya and Nigeria to ensure that their cyber-crimes laws do not restrict fundamental rights and freedoms during the Covid-19 pandemic.

2020-06-29 12:40:46

CIPESA Fellows Focus Energies on Researching Covid-19 and its digital rights impacts

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. Introduced in 2017, CIPESA’s fellowship programme aims to increase the quality, diversity and regularity of research and media reporting on ICT, democracy, and human rights in Sub-Saharan Africa.

2020-07-16 12:40:46

Good News, Bad News: A Story of Internet Shutdowns in Togo And Ethiopia

Between January and March 2020, millions of Ethiopians in the western Oromia region were disconnected from the internet and were in the midst of a government-imposed shutdown of internet and phone services and thus could not readily access information, including Covid-19 news. Ethiopia’s shutdown also bears some traits with the Togolese shutdown of 2017, which was initiated following the announcement of planned anti-government protests by members of the opposition and resulted in internet access being disrupted during September 5–11, 2017.

2020-07-17 14:26:01

Coalition of Civil Society Groups Launches Tool to Track Responses to Disinformation in Sub Saharan Africa

Alongside Global Partners Digital (GPD), ARTICLE 19, PROTEGE QV and the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, we jointly launched an interactive map to track and analyse disinformation laws, policies and patterns of enforcement across Sub-Saharan Africa. (See https://www.disinformationtracker.org/) Developed against a backdrop of rapidly accelerating state action on COVID-19 related disinformation, the map is an open, iterative product covering 31 countries at the time of its launch. 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.

2020-07-29 01:25:05

CIPESA Supports Impactful Digital Rights Media Advocacy in Africa

While the Covid-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the immense importance of digital technologies for government and citizen interactions, public services provision, employment, education and commerce, some governments on the continent used the pandemic as an excuse to impose further clampdowns. For full realisation of the potential of digital technologies to transform society and economies in Africa during the pandemic and beyond, there is need for continued advocacy to uphold and protect freedom of expression, access to information, and equitable participation online.

2020-08-02 03:07:07

Covid-19: How Civic Techies Are Stepping Up To Aid The Fight In Africa

Across the continent, civic tech initiatives have been actively using their innovations to respond to the pandemic – showing the potential and shortcomings of technology during a pandemic. Indeed, Covid-19 is an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine how technology can shape society. Although there are many civic tech initiatives stepping up to the fight against Covid-19, this blog post focuses on just eight initiatives. Here is how eight African civic tech initiatives are responding and helping during the Covid-19 crisis:

2020-08-19 03:07:07

Tanzania Entrenches Digital Rights Repression Amidst Covid-19 Denialism and a Looming Election

Tanzania has been widely criticised for its lacklustre response to the Covid-19 pandemic, yet the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2020 appear to further stifle access to health information by prohibiting the publication of “content with information with regards to the outbreak of a deadly or contagious disease in the country or elsewhere without the approval of the respective authorities.

2020-09-30 01:25:05

State of Internet Freedom in Africa: Resetting Digital Rights Amidst The Covid-19 Fallout

The fight to contain the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is hurting digital rights in Africa. Launched at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2020, this study seeks to document these harms and their effects as experienced in various African countries. It provides recommendations on ways to recalibrate digital rights in view of the fallout from the pandemic

2020-09-30 10:28:45

African Internet Rights Alliance (AIRA) at #FIFAfrica20

AIRA hosted a panel discussion as part of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa which entailed discussion on digital rights: their importance as they constitute human rights; the need for collaboration and partnership between state and non-state actors to boost the digital rights agenda; and the role of the legal fraternity in facilitating the protection of digital rights through strategic litigation. tribute a multi-faceted advocacy for digital rights. The panel noted that the current common trends in digital rights, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, include the increase in online violence, usually perpetrated against women; increase in cybersecurity breaches and the growing need for access and affordability of the interne

2020-10-02 14:23:58

Digital rights in Africa is still far from the internet freedom we desire

The International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), on September 28, is an annual reminder of the rights of every person to access information, initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This is particularly important in Africa, where digital access to information is characterized by excessive taxation, digital shutdowns and jailing of activists. In addition, the dreadful landscape for online freedom and digital rights on the continent has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

2020-10-05 11:24:49

#FIFAfrica20: iWatch Africa accounts for its efforts at sanitising the online space of Ghana

iWatch Africa hosted a remote hub as part of the hybrid Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa. They shared their efforts at developing guidelines to help sanitise and guide online activities in Ghana.

2020-10-19 03:07:07

Tanzania Tramples Digital Rights in Fight Against Covid-19

At the end of March, Tanzania’s President, John Pombe Magufuli, is reported to have encouraged people to continue visiting places of worship, while comparing the virus to the Biblical Satan and saying that it “cannot survive in the body of Jesus Christ.” President Magufuli also rejected the need to restrict movement of citizens, claiming stringent social isolation measures would severely damage the economy, and in June 2020, he declared the country virus-free, “thanks to God” and prayers by citizens. In July 2020, the United Nation experts stated that Covid-19 had compounded the pre-existing human rights concerns in Tanzania, notably, the right to freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information.

2020-10-21 03:07:07

African Civic Tech COVID-19

Africa has a growing civic tech community that focuses on issues such as accountability and transparency, data journalism, citizen participation, and public services monitoring. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, various technologies have been deployed by citizens, civil society organisation, start-ups, private companies, universities and governments to aid the fight against COVID-19. Specifically, the civic tech community has created several innovations or adapted and repurposed existing resources to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

2020-11-25 03:07:07

Regulating Freedom of Expression Amidst the Covid-19 Response in South Africa

Six months after a National State of Disaster was declared in South Africa, the government on September 16, 2020 eased the lockdown, removing “as many of the remaining restrictions on economic and social activity as it is reasonably safe to do.” One notable restriction still in place is the criminalisation of the publication of “any statement through any medium including social media, with the intent to deceive,” pursuant to Regulation 11(5), under the Disaster Management Act, which was issued in March 2020. The offense is punishable with an unspecified fine, imprisonment of up to six months, or both.

2020-12-15 03:07:07

How Uganda’s Fight Against Covid-19 is Hurting DigitalRights Amidst a Looming Election

Uganda instituted the first set of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 on March 18, 2020, which included the closure of schools and a ban on all political, religious and social gatherings. A week after the March 22, 2020 confirmation of the first case in the country, the ministry of health issued The Public Health (Control of COVID-19) (No. 2) Rules, 2020 that introduced further restrictions including a dusk-to-dawn curfew, the closure of institutions of learning and places of worship, the suspension of public gatherings, a ban on public transport and the closure of the country’s borders and international airport to passenger traffic. Many of these measures, including the opening of the country’s international borders, easing of public transport, and allowing public gatherings of up to 200 people, have since been relaxed. However, in the run-up to the January 14, 2021 elections the state has continued to invoke the repressive Covid-19-related laws and regulations, as well as those predating the pandemic, as a tool to intimidate, arrest, and detain persons, including critics and political opponents. Consequently, it is increasingly looking like Covid-19 has handed the government a ready excuse to trample citizens’ digital rights and hinder civic engagement and mobilisation by its opponents.

2021-02-24 03:07:07

Réactions des Télécoms à la Covid-19 au Sénégal

Le Sénégal a enregistré son premier cas de Covid-19 le 2 mars 2020. Trois semaines plus tard, le 23 mars, le pays a déclaré l’état d’urgence et pris diverses mesures pour freiner la propagation du virus. En réponse à la pandémie, l’Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications et des Postes (ARTP) a apporté une contribution financière de 117 millions de francs CFA (216 000 dollars US) à la “Force Covid-19”. L’ARTP a également réuni les fournisseurs de services de télécommunications au Sénégal pour solliciter leur soutien dans le cadre des mesures d’urgence.

2021-04-08 06:34:14

Algerians’ speech freedoms strained by media laws passed under COVID-19 pretext

Algeria has been in turmoil since early 2019. A popular anti-government street protest movement, called Hirak, gathered massive support across different ethnic and social segments of the society and is still ongoing. To this, the government has responded with laws and measures that limit freedom of expression, and has often justified that by the need to fight the pandemic. This article is part of a series of posts examining interference with digital rights under lockdowns and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic in nine African countries: Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Algeria, Nigeria, Namibia, Tunisia, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. The project is funded by the Africa Digital Rights Fund of The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).

2021-04-09 03:22:53

Promoting Digital Inclusion for Refugees Amid the Covid-19 Crisis in Egypt

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has dramatically transformed our daily lives, making the virtual world the new reality for many people. However, for many others, including refugees, it has further served to deepen their digital exclusion. Since the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Egypt in February 2020, the number of confirmed cases, including deaths, has been increasing. By April 08, 2021, there have been 207,293 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 12,290 deaths, reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). In order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the Egyptian government took several preventive measures, including ordering a partial lockdown, suspending all public events, imposition of restrictions on movements, and closing of schools and universities.

2021-04-12 03:22:53

The Data Politics of Pandemics: The Cost of Covid-19 Denialism

Having dealt with epidemics such as Ebola in recent years, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were more prepared and had more supportive infrastructure in place than was apparent to outsiders. The harsh lockdowns, instituted at a terribly high cost to livelihoods of already poor populations, may have inoculated most of the continent from the kind of catastrophe that befell Italy, the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom, Brazil and other countries. This, however, is not to say that all African countries took the same scientifically sound responses to the pandemic. Some governments took a dismissive approach to the disease. Some outrightly denied its existence. In all instances, there have been significant social-economic and political costs.

2021-04-21 03:22:53

Tech to the Rescue Against Covid-19: Reflections from West Africa

The role of technology in aiding the Covid-19 fight in Africa is increasingly undisputed. As Covid-19 cases have grown in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, governments and the private sector have played a decisive role in the three countries’ technology-based response measures, with large scale national efforts to minimise the social-economic impact of the pandemic.

2021-04-24 03:22:53

One Year In: Covid-19 Deepening Africa’s Democratic Regression

While the Arab Spring was a turning point on digital rights in the region, Covid-19 could be another profoundly negative watershed moment. In September 2020, our research on the State of Internet Freedom in Africa established that the ultimate effect of the measures instituted in fighting Covid-19 was that they had deepened the democracy deficit in several African countries. This was because, increasingly, more states in the region had fallen short of living up to their citizens’ democratic expectations as they implemented measures to fight the pandemic.

2021-05-03 03:22:53

Submission to the 38th session of the Universal Periodic Review, Mozambique

Mozambique, like other African countries, adopted restrictive measures to avert the spread of Covid-19, with a State of Emergency declared in April 2020. The Decree declaring a state of emergency indicated that the media should not transmit information about Covid-19 that is “contrary to official information,” arbitrarily restricting journalistic information and interfering with editorial independence.

2021-05-03 03:22:53

Submission to the 38th session of the Universal Periodic Review, Namibia

Although there are no reports of journalists killed, imprisoned or reported missing, harassment, assault and threats to practitioners are not uncommon. In June 2020, two journalists were assaulted by a Presidential Security Unit during the opening of a COVID-19 isolation facility. While the State House issued an apology, one of the journalists involved opened an assault case against the security services. During the 2019 elections, government officials launched verbal attacks against the media. During this period the government also warned the public against bullying on social media.

2021-05-21 23:22:04

Charting the Link Between Disinformation, Disruptions, Diseases and the Diaspora in Cameroon and DR Congo

Many African countries, including Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), continue to grapple with disinformation, with a high risk of online activity resulting in offline harm. This report reviews the situation in these countries, where – despite relatively low connectivity levels – disinformation presents a considerable concern.

2021-06-22 01:25:05

One Year into his Reign, Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye has a Mixed Media Freedom Record

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic presented challenges for Burundi. In May 2020, Burundi expelled officials of the World Health Organisation for challenging the country’s Covid-19 response, amidst a looming election. Whereas the country reported some Covid-19 statistics, there was criticism of under-reporting and gagging of civil society and health workers.

2021-06-22 06:19:54

Data Protection Law on the Horizon in Malawi

In Malawi, the National Registration and Identification System (NRIS), which is being used for biometric data collection and its processing has been centralised since 2017. The NRIS is linked to voter registration, revenue collection, immigration, SIM card registration, banking, as well as financial inclusion and development programmes. This has made it ever more crucial to have strong regulations to protect personal data privacy. Starting March 2021, the system has been used to support the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. The NRIS has been described as having been rolled out at “breakneck speed”, without due regard for human rights. This has been largely attributed to primary focus on social-economic issues, as opposed to digital rights.

2021-07-19 06:19:54

CIPESA, Small Media Make Stakeholder Submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Digital Rights in South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe

CIPESA and Small Media recently made joint stakeholder submissions on digital rights in South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe to the United Nations Human Rights Council. As a result of the outbreak of COVID-19, more restrictive laws were enacted to contain the spread of the virus, with an overbearing impact on freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, freedom of assembly and association. The submissions urge the three countries to ensure that rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information, equal access and opportunity as well as data protection and privacy are protected both offline and online pursuant to constitutional guarantees, regional and international instruments. Based on developments since the three countries’ previous UPR back in November 2016, the submissions make recommendations to be considered during the upcoming third cycle of the UPR, tentatively scheduled for November 2021.

2021-07-20 23:38:33

How Surveillance, Collection of Biometric Data and Limitation of Encryption are Undermining Privacy Rights in Africa

In responding to the pandemic, many countries adopted regulations and practices, including deploying surveillance technologies and untested applications, to enable them collect and process personal data for purposes of tracing, contacting, and isolating those suspected to be carrying the virus and those confirmed to carry it. These measures were quickly adopted, often without adequate regulation or oversight.

Tracking Covid-19 and Digital Rights in Africa

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