Connect with us

Technology

More African governments are trying to control what’s being said on social media and blogs

Published

on

First, it was “gossip” that supposedly pushed Uganda’s government to introduce a tax on social media use. Several weeks later, the country’s 72-year-old president Yoweri Museveni changed tack, saying officials were introducing the levy to increase domestic revenues. But the ultimate target of this decision wasn’t lost on Ugandans, who understood it for what it was: an attempt to muzzle their growing freedoms online.

Controlling what’s being said online is hardly the prerogative of Uganda. Increasingly, African governments are looking at the internet as a threat and are using a motley of targeted shutdownssurveillance, and arbitrary legislation to silence digital users. In the world’s least connected continent, dictators—and some democrats—are realizing they not only need the batons or bullets to stave off criticism but could also power off live feeds to undermine the vibrant conversations taking place online.

And these disruptions are having a costly impact: not just on democracy and social cohesion, but on economic growth, innovation, internet openness, net neutrality, and freedom of expression.

Across Africa, the examples are plenty: In Tanzania, bloggers now have to pay authorities over $900 to license their websites. In Egypt, officials have banned calls made over social media apps, blocked hundreds of local and international websites, and called for the launch of a state-owned, Facebook-like platform. In DR Congo, president Joseph Kabila’s administration has used a decades-old law to monitor and censor the internet. Kenya, bedeviled by fake news during its elections last year, recently passed a sweeping law that critics say could stifle press freedom.

And nations including Ethiopia, Chad, Cameroon, Uganda and Algeria have all shut the internet or blocked apps including WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter during anti-government protests or crucial elections.

Coming online:

These curtailing practices take place even as getting connected becomes a byword for economic and political progress in Africa. With increasing internet speeds, rising smartphone adoption, growing e-commerce platforms, and improving tech ecosystems, Africa’s internet economy is gradually taking hold. And as incongruous as it sounds, nations are increasingly coming online too, with about 83% of all African governments holding a Facebook account according to Twiplomacy, which advises states on digital strategy. African presidents, including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, and Uganda’s Museveni all use Twitter to engage their followers and promote their accomplishments.

As the crackdown intensifies, activists are pushing back, resorting to “naming and shaming” nations infringing on digital rights, alerting continental and international organizations including the African Union, and pressing telcos to be more accountable to consumers.

“At least you have to show that you know your rights and are ready to defend them,” says Julie Owono, the executive director of advocacy Internet Sans Frontières, which has uncovered cases of internet throttling or blocks.

Top 10 list of the most followed Sub-Saharan African leaders on Twitter

Others are also working to bridge the digital divide, teaching users not just critical digital skills but educating them about their rights and how to stay online. This is important, especially in a continent where financing for internet accessibility is low, and where “many think about bread and bed first and then broadband,” says Tope Ogundipe, the director of programs at Nigerian social enterprise Paradigm Initiative.

Yet when all fails, digital activists have responded by getting even with authoritarian states. When Togo president Faure Gnassingbé’s administration faced protests last year, it cut off the internet and blocked WhatsApp. But under the “Faure Must Go” umbrella, a decentralized group of 5,000 activists worked from both within Togo and in neighboring Ghana to take down government websites including the presidency, the revenue authority, and the national television.

Giving the government a taste of its own medicine was a way not only to pressure them but also “make them understand that it’s not just them who can attack us. We can also attack them,” says Farida Nabourema, a Togolese activist who helped coordinate the effort. “We have to be online.”

Source: Quartz

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Technology

Google Internet project closes in Uganda.

Published

on

Uganda will be among the 10 African countries that will lose out as Google winds up its Internet Balloon Project. 

The closure follows an announcement in which Google said the project was “an unsustainable business model”.

In 2019, Loon LLC, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, signed a Letter of Agreement in Kampala with officials from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, in which high altitude solar powered Internet balloons with floating masts over Uganda’s airspace, would be established at an altitude of 500,000 feet.

The balloons would create an aerial wireless network to provide Internet and telecom network connectivity to rural and remote areas.

Dr Anna Prouse, the Loon LLC head of government relations, had said then that Google would partner with telecoms to tap into their technology to allow connectivity.

However, Alastair Westgarth, the team lead of the project, last week announced in a statement the project would be closed.

“We talk a lot about connecting the next billion users, but the reality is Loon has been chasing the hardest problem of all in connectivity – the last billion users: The communities in areas are too difficult or remote to reach, or the areas where delivering service with existing technologies is just too expensive for everyday people,” he said.

While Loon had found a number of willing partners along the way, he said, they had not found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business.

“Developing radical new technology is inherently risky. I am sad to share that Loon will be winding down,” he said.

Loon had had similar arrangements in Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, DR Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Mozambique and Kenya, but are expected to close as well.

The Loon project was expected to be a game changer in Uganda’s telecomm sector through enhancing connectivity in remote areas, and contributing to the development of the national backbone infrastructure project.

The demand for Internet among Ugandans has grown exponentially in the recent past with Covid-19 being a serious catalyst.

Internet status  

A UCC report published recently indicated telecom and Internet service providers registered an increase in demand for data in the third quarter of 2020 with more than 20 million subscriptions – nearly 50 per cent of the population being connected.

The growth was mainly attributed to the shifting work culture driven by Covid-19, which led many businesses to adopt remote working methods.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

Continue Reading

Environment

Human Rights Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo is out on bail…

Published

on

By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda Human Rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo has been granted bail pending trial in regard to accusations of money laundering.

Justice Jane Okuo of the Anti-corruption Court has on December, 30th, 2020 ordered for the release of Mr. Opiyo on bail but ordered him to deposit cash of Shs15m in the bank.

The court also ordered Mr. Opiyo to deposit his passport in court to restrict his movements out of the country and each of the four sureties were bonded at Shs100m, not cash.

Justice Okuo ruled that Mr. Opiyo has a legal right to bail based on the presumption of innocence.

His lawyers, David Mpanga, Robert Mackay, and Elison Karuhanga argued that Mr. Opiyo is a lawyer in courts of law, a human rights international award winner with substantial sureties.

They said that Mr. Opiyo knows his obligations to bail.

Mr. Opiyo appeared before the High Court judge by way of a video conference at Buganda Road, hardly a week after a lower court remanded him until January 11, next year.

Mr. Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda was arrested last week from a city restaurant and detained at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering, a charge that can only be heard by the High Court judge.

Mr. Opiyo was abducted alongside two members of Witness Radio – Uganda legal team Esomu Simon Peter Obure and Anthony Odur. Others were Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa who were later granted a police bond on December, 24th, 2020.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

Continue Reading

Environment

Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo denied bail, remanded again…

Published

on

By witnessradio.org Team

Buganda Road court on Monday remanded human rights lawyer Mr. Nicholas Opiyo to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021.
Opiyo was arrested last week on Tuesday and detained at Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering.
Mr. Opiyo on Monday appeared before Buganda Road Chief Magistrates court through video conferencing where the case was read to him.

The Chief Magistrate, Mr. Moses Mabende however denied him bail arguing that he has no jurisdiction to hear his case.

The magistrate said the charges against Opiyo who is the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, can only be heard by the High Court.

He sent him back to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021, to come for mentioning of the case.

“The accused can apply for bail in the High Court on Wednesday because the case is before Justice Jane Kajuba at the anti-corruption high court,” the Magistrate said.

The other four suspects, who included lawyers Herbert Dakasi, Esomu Obure, Anthony Odur, and Human Rights officer, Hamid Tenywa were given police bonds last Thursday.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and the Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

Continue Reading

Resource Center

Legal Framework

READ BY CATEGORY

Facebook

Trending