In 2015, the Forum brought together 200 human rights defenders, journalists, government officials, bloggers, developers, and representatives from academia, the arts community, law enforcement agencies, and communication regulators from 18 countries. This is in contrast to the inaugural 2014 forum, which hosted 85 participants from six countries.
Why a Forum on Internet Freedom
As internet use has risen in Africa, so have the abuses and attacks on internet freedom, including a proliferation of laws, legal and extra-legal affronts, as well as limited judicial oversight over surveillance and interception of communications.
- This Forum is one of a kind in Africa that is committed to advancing an understanding and upholding of internet freedoms and how they impact media freedom, free expression, and privacy for a range of civic actors such as journalists, human rights defenders, sexual minorities, women, political actors, and bloggers.
- It is one of very few gatherings that assemble an African audience within the continent to discuss matters related to upholding internet freedom. While similar conferences are held elsewhere (in Asia, America, Europe), it is expensive for Africa-based actors to attend, and for some of these events only bits of the agenda are relevant to Africa.
- The conversation on the need to promote internet freedom is crucial and the Forum provides a unique opportunity for deliberations and building a network of African actors to promote internet freedom for a range of civic actors such as journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, sexual minorities, women, and political actors.
- Presently, there is minimal collaboration between African tools developers and those on the frontlines defending human rights. The Forum will bring together African technical experts and HRDs to explore ways in which the two can work together in advancing internet freedom, including on testing tools and user interfaces, on digital security training, and secure design. It will empower developers from the region to appreciate internet freedom tools design, and turn them into advocates of secure tools to protect internet freedom.
What is discussed?
A key feature of #FIFAfrica is the assembly of discussions that take place and how each of these influences the work onwards of many of the participants present at the forum. The topics explored to-date include discussions around the growing presence of online violence against women (VAW), whose magnitude and manifestation is not clearly known, as most cases in Africa go unreported; combating hate speech and violations of freedom of expression including during periods of electioneering; empowering media as infomediaries and advocates of digital rights whilst also recognizing them as a vulnerable group; advocating for increased judicial oversight over surveillance and interception of communications; bridging the gap between techies and HRDs; the need to address gaps (policy and legislative) in the right to privacy; and continued capacity building and awareness raising among citizens, media, human rights defenders and activists on the appreciation of digital safety tools and practices.