Concerns As Online Freedom Of Expression Reduced In 2020


Concerns As Online Freedom Of Expression Reduced In 2020

Concerns As Online Freedom Of Expression Reduced In 2020
Tracey Ishmael is a Communications Lead at ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa (Kenya)

Looking back at 2020, it’s clear that government reactions to the pandemic have reduced freedom of expression for people across Eastern Africa. Key challenges include the criminalization of opinions expressed online, poor accessibility and affordability of the Internet for all, and inadequate privacy and data protection for individuals and communities.

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In 2020, the media and other actors began documenting the arrests of bloggers, citizen journalists, and politicians in Kenya and beyond. Names of various individuals, including Idris Sultan, Milton Were, Stella Nyanzi, Valentin Muhirwa and Elizabeth Kebede frequently appeared in newspapers and TV reports for allegedly insulting a political figure, or spreading false information.

However, the problems being underscored by media houses and human rights organizations were two-fold. Firstly, governments began surveilling social media platforms in full force; and woe unto you if their spotlight fell on you. For some individuals, this would translate to a couple of hours or days in an interrogation room, a prison cell, or a court appearance.

Secondly, governments continued to misuse vague provisions in new and existing laws and policies to criminalise freedom of expression. These include the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act (Kenya), the Penal Code (South Sudan and Uganda), the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations (Tanzania), and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Law and Media Law (Rwanda).

In Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia, state agents intimidated, detained, summoned, arrested, charged, or imprisoned 23 Internet and digital technology users for criticising public health measures and authorities, and commenting on other social and political issues. In Kenya, the notoriety of agents at the DCI, and their preference for Sections 22 or 23, Cybercrimes Act is well known.



Concerns As Online Freedom Of Expression Reduced In 2020

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