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Respect Digital Rights, Group Urges African Leaders

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), a network of African freedom of expression and media development organizations has urged governments in Africa to respect digital rights of citizens in their respective countries.

AFEX also called on governments across the continent to work towards formulating and implementing policies that promote the exercise and enjoyment of human rights on the internet and particularly meaningful and affordable connectivity as well as bridging the gender digital divide.

The group equally harped on the importance of access to the internet at affordable costs for all, as a pivotal enabler of other rights, especially during the pandemic and its aftermath.

AFEX also challenged government to ensure media freedom and freedom of expression, as well as the safety of journalists as evidenced by a surge in attacks on journalists and the violations of the rights in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Guinea, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, and Guinea Bissau, among others.

The group condemned the killing of journalists across the continent including the killing in March this year of Jamal Farah Adan, a Somali broadcast journalist; two expatriate journalists killed in Burkina Faso in May 2021 and at least five killed in Nigeria since 2020 as well as the killing of Ghanaian journalist Ahmed Hussein Suale in Ghana in 2019.

Similarly, the growing trend of forced disappearances and the incidence of “missing” journalists in Tanzania and Mozambique such as journalist Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco who has been missing since April 7, 2020, was equally upbraided by the group.

AFEX also denounced the increasing resort to cyber security and cyber crime laws, the manipulation of anti-terror laws as well as COVID-19 related regulations that unduly restrict the work of the media, the harassment and jailing of journalists and civil society activists in an effort to suppress critical voices in various countries and undermine the free flow of information.

The group therefore urged governments in Africa to establish coordinating multi-stakeholder national mechanisms to guarantee the safety of journalists and other media practitioners who remain the major victims of freedom of expression violations, at both national and regional levels.

These were the resolutions reached and adopted at the 8th General Meeting of AFEX which was held in Accra, Ghana, from 25 to 26 June 2021. The meeting was attended by representatives of 11 of AFEX’s 15 member organisations from West, East, Central, and Southern Africa.

Participants at the meeting also expressed concern about the phenomenon of African governments disrupting social media networks and platforms or the entire internet as a tool to further silence critical voices or prevent mobilisation of the public to protest against unpopular decisions or policies in Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville, Senegal, Algeria, Burundi, Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Sudan and Togo over the past two years alone.

They specifically condemned the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and the Facebook ban in Uganda as a gross and unjustifiable violation of the rights of Nigerians and Ugandans respectively to freedom of expression and access to information.

The group further demanded that the governments of Nigeria and Uganda should immediately and unconditionally rescind their decisions on banning access to Twitter and Facebook and any other social media platforms to media, journalists, and the general populace, and allow all persons to enjoy and exercise their constitutional rights of access to information and freedom of expression online, as enshrined in the countries’ constitutions and several other regional, continental and international treaties and protocols that Nigeria and Uganda are a signatories to.

They also resolved to increase awareness about the need for African governments to be transparent in the management of resources allocated to the fight against COVID-19, put in place monitoring and reporting mechanisms at the national and regional levels to promote the safety of journalists and access to public information, among other issues.

Also at the meeting, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) in Nigeria was re-elected to serve as Chair of the AFEX Steering Committee for a further period of two years.

Others also elected to the Steering Committee, include Mr Samkelo Mokhine, Executive Director of Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) in South Africa; Ms Mary Goch Ajith, Board Chair of the Association of Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS); and Mr. Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Ghana.

Short URL: https://www.africanexaminer.com/?p=65058

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