Tackling Threats to Media Freedom and Safety in The Digital Age

By Ashnah Kalemera | 

The proliferation of technology has created new opportunities for journalists and journalism in Africa, but it has also come with threats. For civil society, academia, media development practitioners, activists and development partners, it is critical to understand the key issues related to freedom of expression and the internet and possible ways to address them as part of programming and strategic intervention. 

At the Africa Media Convention (AMC), which was held in Lusaka, Zambia on May 11-13, 2023, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) convened a session that explored threats to media freedom and journalists safety in the digital age and comprehensive measures to tackle them.

During the session, which brought together over 40 stakeholders from across Africa, it was acknowledged that technology had enabled groundbreaking journalism, ease of reach to diverse audiences which has also enabled active engagement, and more accessible content production avenues. With this evolution, new actors have joined the sector and new regulation and economic sustainability models have been witnessed, all with implications for the future of media freedom and democracy. 

However, the digital era has also seen an exponential increase in online harassment of journalists, criminalisation of aspects of journalism, surveillance of journalists, and the orchestration of disinformation campaigns. These threats have translated into offline risks of physical violence, thereby undermining the safety and independence of journalists, while also eroding freedom of expression. 

According to Kamufisa Manchishi, a lecturer in the Faculty of Journalism and Public Relations at Zambia’s Mulungushi University, digitalisation in the media had created several “crises”. One of them was an identity crisis, whereby journalists and media houses are struggling to balance their online presence with upholding journalistic principles and ethics. Linked to the identity crisis was a financial crisis of generating revenue and sustaining operations. “This has caused clickbait journalism and led to compromise of ethics,” said Manchishi. 

Manchishi added that fears of being surveilled by the state and private actors had led to increased self censorship. He said: “Journalists do not want to talk about controversial issues on phone or virtual platforms. They are worried someone is listening and are opting to conduct interviews and investigations physically.” 

Meanwhile, misinformation and disinformation continue to proliferate on legacy media as well as on social and digital media. CIPESA research indicates that disinformation from online platforms is often amplified through traditional print and broadcast media. Soren Johannsen, BBC Media Action’s Zambia Country Director, called for more innovative approaches to promoting digital literacy. 

Whilst applauding various stakeholders’ efforts in debunking and fact-checking, Johannsen advocated for more interventions designed around pre-bunking as an inoculation theory for behavioural change. “We shouldn’t try to just correct and verify but help users understand where false information is coming from, the motivation and the consequences,” he said. Such efforts should be complemented with more research to help understand the originators, flows and uptake of misinformation and disinformation. 

Disinformation Pathways and Effects: Case Studies from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda.

Understanding the Information Disorder in Tunisia, Algeria and Libya .

As disinformation and misinformation threaten democracy, public security, and social cohesion, there has been an increase in legislative responses including the enactment of laws on cybercrime, computer misuse, hate speech and “false news”. However, many of such laws in place are vague and broadly criminalise “false news” or “offensive publications online” without, for instance, distinguishing between misinformation and disinformation, and have been weaponised against critics, journalists and media houses. 

Citing various examples from West Africa, Dora Mawutor, the Programme Manager at the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), said the determination of what qualifies as false news lies with the state and its “self-serving purposes”. She called for more solidarity among the media fraternity to push back against the selective application of such laws through increased coverage of legislative developments and  of attacks against journalists. Mawutor also called for advocacy for review or repeal of such repressive laws. 

Echoing Mawutor’s sentiments, Alfred Bulakali, the Regional Director of Article19 West Africa, stated that laws across Africa that govern  freedom of expression and media freedom often come with heavy sanctions against offenders yet they fall short of the three part test under international human rights standards. He noted that media freedom advocates around Africa had scored successes in securing the decriminalisation of libel and defamation provisions in traditional press laws. However, added Bulakali, “technology has given them [the decriminalised provisions] an opportunity to come back” through laws and regulations being developed to govern media and freedom of expression online. He called for renewed efforts in decriminalising libel and defamation online and offline and limiting the power of law enforcers to interpret the laws.

On online harassment, Cecilia Maundu, a Kenyan broadcast journalist, digital rights researcher and digital security trainer, stated that online gender-based violence is under-reported, even though some newsrooms have dedicated gender desks. Meanwhile, newsroom policies are also weak or non-existent, putting women journalists at increased risk. As a result, there was limited visibility of online gender-based violence in mainstream media and inadequate support for survivors. This calls for more response measures and programming that not only focus on newsroom policies and safety mechanisms, but also on psychological support. 

The joint responsibility alluded to by the various speakers at the session around advocacy, movement building, institutional capacity building, skills and knowledge development as well research and documentation  are key planks of CIPESA’s programming and engagement at national, regional and international levels to advance access to information, privacy and data protection, and free expression online as enablers of citizen participation, resisting authoritarianism, protecting women’s or other marginalised groups’ rights, amplifying people’s voices, and engendering accountability.

Disinformation and Hate Speech Continue to Fuel the Conflict in Eastern DR Congo 

By Nadine Kampire Temba and CIPESA Writer |

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) continues to witness an information war, characterised by spiralling incitement, misinformation, disinformation and hate speech on social media. The state of affairs has undermined cohesion between communities and continues unabated due to various factors. 

Firstly, the country’s long history of political instability has created an environment where misinformation, disinformation and hate speech thrive. Over the past three decades, the DR Congo has witnessed cyclic and indiscriminate violence, and internationalised conflict. These have been fuelled by impunity for atrocities, endemic corruption, poor governance, leadership wrangles and differences over the control of an estimated USD 24 trillion worth of mineral resources, pitting the government against neighbouring countries, at least 120 armed groups and other parties. 

The instability has left at least 24.6 million people (one in four Congolese) at risk of food insecurity and a further six million citizens internally displaced, the highest on the continent. Human rights violations have remained commonplace despite years of humanitarian interventions. More recently, the conflict has escalated in Ituri and Kivu provinces in the eastern part of the country. Violence between government forces and armed groups has led to the death of at least 1,300 people since October 2022 and forced about 300,000 civilians to flee their homes and villages. 

Secondly, divisions among the country’s diverse ethnic groups have contributed to the escalation of tensions and hostility, while disputes with neighbouring Rwanda have led to the deterioration of diplomatic relations between the two states. Congo, United Nations experts and western governments accuse Rwanda of backing the March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group which continues to extend its control in North Kivu – accusations Rwanda and the rebel group deny. 

The Congolese government has labelled the M23 a “terrorist movement” and blamed it for committing atrocities, including summary executions and forced enlistment of civilians. In January 2023, Congo accused Rwanda of shooting down its fighter jet and described this as a “deliberate act of aggression that amounts to an act of war”. Rwanda claimed the jet had violated its airspace on three occasions. This came eight months after Kinshasa banned Rwanda Air from its airspace.

For its part, the Rwanda government accuses the Congolese army of utilising proxy armed groups, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Les Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, FDLR), to contain the M23 offensive and to destabilise Rwanda.

The strained relations between the two countries, coupled with social divisions based on ethnicity, religion, nationality and political affiliation, continue to be exploited by politicians and groups affiliated to both countries to create tension and fuel hate speech and disinformation online and offline. On October 30, 2022, the Congolese government ordered the Rwandan ambassador, Vincent Karega, to leave the country within 48 hours in retaliation for Kigali’s alleged support to the M23. The DR Congo also recalled its top diplomat from Rwanda in a further souring of relations. A day later, on October 31, 2022, thousands of Congolese citizens, mostly in Goma city, attended anti-Rwanda protests to denounce Kigali’s alleged support of the M23, a mostly Congolese Tutsi group and what they called the “hypocrisy of the international community in the face of Rwanda’s aggression.” 

During the protests, names of individuals identified as Rwandans were read out, resulting in attacks and lynching of some individuals. In response, online trolls affiliated to Rwanda have targeted Congolese political leaders, journalists and civil society leaders. The targets of attacks in Congo have included the Banyarwanda (Tutsi) and the Banyamulenge whose citizenship, equal rights and belonging in DR Congo have been constantly questioned. They often face threats, attacks, and dehumanising stereotypes as they are perceived as foreigners or Rwandan implants supporting the M23 rebellion. 

Amidst these tensions is a weak and underdeveloped media environment in both DR CongoC and Rwanda, coupled with low media literacy among the population, which are enabling the spread of false information without being challenged or fact-checked. The situation has been further complicated by the lack of both skills and tools in content moderation and editorial guidance on the part of local media outlets and journalists working from both sides of the border. 

Media houses have to compete with social media platforms where users have found a sense of “community” by connecting with a variety of actors at the national level and in the diaspora who anonymously disseminate and amplify well-scripted radical messages, conspiracy theories and polarising narratives to wider audiences and appeal to ethnic loyalties and sow discord among communities. Some of the rivalling groups have deployed bots and trolls in order to manipulate the public opinion on social media.

According to Congolese journalist Desanges Kihuha, the media that are committed to providing truthful information are struggling to match the speed at which conflict-related disinformation and misinformation are spreading on social media platforms due to limited skills and funding. Thus, any actor intent on spreading false information can publish information online where it can easily gain virality without being fact-checked. “In the current context of war and insecurity in North Kivu province, misinformation continues to spread at a fast rate due to the use of digital and social media. Unfortunately, there is little press coverage of this phenomenon of hate speech and fake news,” says Kihuha.

Related to the above is that a significant part of the population, especially those in rural areas, lack access to accurate, verifiable and reliable information, while at the same time, the youth rely on social media for information. In addition, the social and economic challenges affecting the public, such as high poverty levels and limited access to basic services and infrastructure, create frustration, resentment, anger and distrust of the state, making the public vulnerable to exploitation. 

As a result, politicians, armed groups and their allies exploit these vulnerabilities to create tension by manipulating public opinion to generate support for their extremist political views or groups and channelling the public anger to promote hate speech and disinformation to further escalate the ethnic and regional conflicts. Theogene Magarambe, a Rwandan journalist, describes this as the “instrumentalisation of the M23 insurgency” in order to distract the public from governance shortcomings and the failure to restore peace and rule of law in Kivu. 

The failure by governments on both sides of the border to create an environment to push back against the political polarisation and disinformation online is widely acknowledged. “At the practical level, policies related to content moderation and regulation are currently inexistent, though we are engaging cross-border communities in order to create space for dialogue, hosting workshops and platforms where we exchange knowledge,” says Marion Ngavho Kambale, who is the head of the civil society of the North Kivu province.  Magarambe adds: “Today the true legitimacy test for any credible government is whether it can implement legal safeguards on privately developed technologies and hold platform operators accountable for failure to moderate content.”

Critics point to the challenge of the structural conception of social media platforms, whose business models and algorithms mostly prioritise content based on its engagement value rather than its accuracy or truth. Platforms such as Facebook have been criticised for inaction in the face of online ethnic incitement and massacres in Ethiopia – a potential risk in the DR Congo-Rwanda conflict. As Arsene Tungali, a digital rights and internet governance expert observed, inadequate actions by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp means “the devastating effects of political polarisation, hate speech and disinformation peddled on  social media remain a problem.”

Louis Gitinywa, a digital rights and technology lawyer, says although the internet has offered citizens and private actors in the two countries a robust civic space for organising and engaging with key societal priorities, the “lawlessness and disinformation online … continue to contribute to fighting and killings”. 

Overall, addressing hate and disinformation in the DR Congo-Rwanda conflict will require a sustained and coordinated effort from multiple actors. Looking ahead, there is a critical need to build capacity and expertise amongst all the stakeholders in order to formulate effective strategies for content moderation. This includes building the legal expertise and strategic litigation to hold liable social media such as Facebook and Twitter for failing to effectively put adequate measures to moderate content in native and indigenous languages.

Further, since media literacy is limited, it is important to build the capacity of journalists, media practitioners and civil society reporting on the conflict to be aware of the complex information environment, relevant skills in fact-checking, professional ethics, content moderation as well as building their own professional networks for sharing credible information with counterparts across borders and avoiding sensationalism in reporting. They can also use the available platforms to promote responsible social media use, tolerance and dialogue between different groups in order to build trust. Moreover, the different actors should desist from propagating hate speech and disinformation. 

Nadine Kampire Temba is a journalist and digital rights lawyer based in Goma city, DR Congo, and a fellow with CIPESA. She coordinates Afia Amani Grands Lacs, an online media outlet that undertakes fact-checking and defends press freedom in the Great Lakes Region. You can follow her on Twitter @nadineKampire

CIPESA Submits Comments on Uganda’s Proposed New Digital Tax 

By Edrine Wanyama |

On April 28, 2023, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)  submitted comments on the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2023 to the Committee on Finance, Planning and Economic Development of the Uganda Parliament. The comments argue that the proposed law would  undermine access to and use of digital tools and services. 

The bill, among others, proposes to impose a tax of five percent on foreign-based entities that derive income from providing digital services to customers in Uganda. The proposals are contained in clause 16 which seeks to introduce a new section, 86A.

Clause 86A provides:

  1. A tax is imposed on every non-resident person deriving income from providing digital services in Uganda to a customer in Uganda at the rate prescribed in Part IV of the Third Schedule to this Act.
  2. For the purposes of subsection (1), income is derived from providing a digital service in Uganda to a customer in Uganda, if the digital service is delivered over the internet, electronic network or an online platform.
  3. For the purposes of this section “digital service” includes—
  1. online advertising services;
  2. data services;
  3. services delivered through an online marketplace or intermediation platform, including an accommodation online marketplace, a vehicle hire online marketplace and any other transport online marketplace;
  4. digital content services, including accessing and downloading of digital content;
  5. online gaming services;
  6. cloud computing services;
  7. data warehousing;
  8. services, other than those services in this subsection, delivered through a social media platform or an internet search engine; and
  9. any other digital services as the Minister may prescribe by statutory instrument made under this Act.”

While the clause targets non-residents, if enacted it would add to the digital taxes borne by the already tax-burdened consumers of digital services in Uganda. Since July 1, 2022, web hosting, software and streaming services in the country pay a mandatory value added tax of 18% chargeable on consumers of services offered by  platforms such as Amazon, Meta (Facebook), Twitter and Zoom. 

The tax would potentially hinder inclusive access and use of digital technologies and negatively affect Uganda’s digital economy. According to the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), Uganda’s digital economy score is low, particularly in areas such as digital inclusiveness. According to the UNCDF Score Card of 2021 the digital divide or groups most excluded from the digital economy in Uganda are the elderly (80%), rural communities (64%), persons with disabilities (74%), the youth (33%), refugees (80%) and migrants (75%). The inclusion gap such as for persons with disabilities is attributed to the high cost of technologies. 

Innovation is a prerequisite for the provision of digital services including advertising, data services, marketing, cloud computing services, and data warehousing. Most of these tools and services are developed outside Uganda, hence imposing high taxes on non-residents that provide them could   limit access to these critical tools and services. That could push Ugandans further into the margins of the global digital economy.

The enjoyment of digital rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression, access to information, and association, could also be limited by the imposition of high digital taxes. 

Accordingly, the submission by CIPESA recommends that the Committee on Finance, Planning and Economic Development:

  1. Drops the entire proposed clause 16 of the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2023;
  2. Conducts wide consultations with the affected stakeholders including the tech community, innovators, the business community and civil society on the potential effects of the proposed amendment.
  3. Conducts a tax impact assessment to weigh the potential effects of the proposed tax on access and use of digital tools and services. The impact assessment should specifically spell out the anticipated positive impacts and weigh them against the anticipated negative effects.
  4. Takes into consideration and supports all the progressive policies that seek to increase and enhance accessibility and usage of digital tools and services such as tax incentives which usually lead to lowering of the costs to be borne by consumers in purchase and use of digital tools and services.

See the full submission here.

Apply To The Latest Round of the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF)

Announcement |

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is calling for proposals to support digital rights work across Africa. The current call is particularly interested in proposals for work related to:

  • Data governance including aspects of data localisation, cross-border data flows, biometric databases and digital ID
  • Digital resilience for human rights defenders, other activists and journalists
  • Censorship and network disruptions
  • Digital economy
  • Digital inclusion including aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities
  • Disinformation
  • Online violence against women
  • Platform accountability

Grant amounts available range between USD 1,000 and USD 10,000, depending on the need and scope of the proposed intervention. Cost-sharing is strongly encouraged and the grant period should not exceed six months. Applications will be accepted until May 5, 2023.

This call for proposals is the seventh under CIPESA’s Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF) initiative which provides rapid response and flexible grants to organisations and networks to implement activities that promote digital rights, including advocacy, litigation, research, policy analysis, skills development and movement building. Since its launch in April 2019, the ADRF has to-date supported 52 initiatives with a total sum of USD 649,000 across 39 African countries and contributed to building capacity and traction for digital rights advocacy on the continent. 

Highlights of ADRF-supported initiatives

Application Guidelines

Geographical Coverage

The ADRF is open to organisations/networks based or operational in Africa and with interventions covering any country on the continent.

Size of Grants

Grant size shall range from USD 1,000 to USD 10,000. Cost sharing is strongly encouraged.

Eligible Activities

The activities that are eligible for funding are those that protect and advance digital rights. These may include but are not limited to research, advocacy, engagement in policy processes, litigation, digital literacy and digital security skills building.


The grant funding shall be for a period not exceeding six months.

Eligibility Requirements

  • The Fund is open to organisations and coalitions working to advance digital rights in Africa. This includes but is not limited to human rights defenders, media, activists, think tanks, legal aid groups, and tech hubs. Entities working on women’s rights, or with youth, sexual minorities, refugees, and persons with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.
  • The initiatives to be funded will preferably have formal registration in an African country, but in some circumstances organisations and coalitions that do not have formal registration may be considered. Such organisations need to show evidence that they are operational in a particular African country or countries.
  • The activities to be funded must be in/on an African country or countries.

Ineligible Activities

  • The Fund shall not fund any activity that does not directly advance digital rights.
  • The Fund will not support travel to attend conferences or workshops, except in exceptional circumstances where such travel is directly linked to an activity that is eligible.
  • Costs that have already been incurred are ineligible.
  • The Fund shall not provide scholarships.
  • The Fund shall not support equipment or asset acquisition.


The Fund is administered by CIPESA. An internal and external panel of experts will make decisions on beneficiaries based on the following criteria:

  • If the proposed intervention fits within the Fund’s digital rights priorities.
  • The relevance to the given context/country.
  • Commitment and experience of the applicant in advancing digital rights.
  • Potential impact of the intervention on digital rights policies or practices.

The deadline for submissions is Friday May 5, 2023. The application form can be accessed here.

Digital Democracy in Africa: What Has the Law Got to Do With It?

By Edrine Wanyama |

With digital freedoms continuing to take a hit amidst a wider democratic regression across Africa, the role of laws in curing what ails democracy in the region warrants scrutiny. In a number of countries, the laws that regulate how citizens use digital platforms and exercise their digital rights are retrogressive and fail to offer sufficient protection to citizens. Many of them are broadly worded, give extensive powers to state agencies to interpret the laws and to interfere with citizens’ rights.

In turn, the legal and regulatory framework has become central in shaping digital rights and digital democracy in Africa. Governments have enacted regressive and draconian laws that variously empower state agencies to limit the digital civic space. As a result, rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and data privacy continue to come under threat due to the high-handed and often excessive control measures. 

In many countries laws have been weaponised to silence critics, notably those that use digital and social media to organise or express opinions critical of governments and state officials. Various laws are being used to arrest, persecute, detain and prosecute individuals over online communication, as have been witnessed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and several other countries. These measures curtail press freedom and other digital rights that are at the root of democratic participation.

Laws that regulate state surveillance are among those that have a profound chilling effect on digital rights and citizen participation. Anonymous communication in the digital domain is crucial for citizens, journalists and political actors to operate without fear of reprisals, particularly in authoritarian countries. Yet the conduct of surveillance in the region is enabled by laws that give broad powers to state agencies to conduct surveillance amidst limited oversight and transparency, and strenuous demands on intermediaries to facilitate communications monitoring and interception.

Equally concerning is that various governments have weaponised disinformation laws to silence critical voices, rather than utilising them to counter the ills of disinformation. Similar to the purposes that state surveillance often serves, laws on countering disinformation have in many cases been used to target political critics.

In turn, those laws (which tend to be vague and ambiguous and fail to distinguish between disinformation or falsified information, making their enforcement open to the subjective interpretation of law enforcement agencies) are being used to stifle legitimate expression and to hamper access to critical and pluralistic information. This has been common in countries like Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda where laws criminalising disinformation and false news, such as  those on computer misuse, are often deployed to silence government critics.

Governments have also relied on different laws to order internet disruptions, which create information blackouts, deny citizens their right to access information, associate and express themselves. Mostly ordered during elections and public protests, the network disruptions also undermine electoral credibility and hinder the ability of citizens to record and disseminate incidents of rights violations by security agencies and other actors.

Many observers around the continent, as well as the United Nations, have repeatedly urged states to refrain from ordering shutdowns, which they say are often not necessary or proportionate to address the threats that prompt governments to order them. However, such network disruptions continue unabated in parts of Africa, with governments and communications regulators citing various laws to justify them. According to the KeepItOn coalition, at least four of the region’s nine shutdowns during 2022 took place alongside reported human rights abuses, both in the context of violent crackdowns on protests and active conflict.

There are other ways still in which the law is undermining the protection of freedom of expression and access to information and data privacy. Many African countries have enacted access to information laws to facilitate public access to information in possession of the state. They include Kenya (enacted in 2016), Rwanda (2013), South Sudan (2013), Tanzania (2016), Uganda (2005), Malawi (2017), Mozambique (2014), and Zimbabwe (2020). On the other hand, countries like the DRC, Burundi, and Zambia do not have specific laws on access to information.

However, many of the existing laws have wide exemptions and limitations to the kinds of information that citizens can access. These limitations are primarily based on national security, official secrecy laws, individual privacy and confidentiality justifications. Proactive disclosure of information is rare in most countries, and information of vital importance to citizens is in short supply online. This undermines accountability and transparency of governments, which are key ingredients for citizen participation in democracy. 

At another level, proliferation of technology has led to a need to protect individual privacy. Previously, countries collected personal data in absence of enabling legislation, for such purposes as immigration, issuance of driving permits and SIM card registration. This has, in turn, necessitated the adoption of laws to protect privacy: Uganda (2019), Kenya (2019), Rwanda (2021), Tanzania (2022), South Africa (2013), Zambia (2021) and Zimbabwe (2021). Still, countries like South Sudan, DRC, Malawi, and Mozambique are yet to enact specific laws. 

Despite the adoption of laws, they generally fall short of the ideal practices. Many countries do not have independent data protection authorities and there is inadequate oversight and enforcement of personal data protection standards and mechanisms. Moreover, only 13 of Africa’s 55 countries have ratified the African Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data protection. These are Algeria, Cape Verde, Congo Brazzaville, Ghana, Guinea, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda Senegal, Togo and Zambia. Reluctance to endorse this lead guiding instrument on data protection, privacy and cyber security is telling of countries’ commitment to respecting privacy.

Meanwhile, numerous data protection laws facilitate governments’ access to personal data without adequate safeguards, thereby enabling undue surveillance and interception of communications and unlawful use of private information. They fail to adequately regulate the mass collection of individuals’ personal data, including biometrics, for issuance of national identity cards, immigration documents, voters’ cards and driving permits. Furthermore, the laws often restrict the transfer of personal data outside national borders but do not put sufficient checks on governments’ access to this data.

Indeed, the place of the legal and regulatory framework in promoting and protecting fundamental freedoms was in focus at a regional convening on March 13-14, 2023, by the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP) in partnership with the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and Southern African Institute for Policy and Research (SAIPAR) in Harare, Zimbabwe. 

The workshop identified advocacy, capacity building, analysis of laws and proposed legislation, engagements with parliaments on law reform, and litigation at national and regional courts, as key to promoting the digital civic space. Yet, as CIPESA noted at the meeting, political interference, long periods taken to determine cases, and non-compliance of states with decisions of regional courts have hampered the effectiveness of litigation.

The convening made recommendations to governments, civil society, and the private sector:

  1. Governments
  • Sign and ratify key international human rights instruments on data protection and privacy especially the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection.
  • Ensure a favourable environment for the exercise and enjoyment of digital rights and freedoms by among others enacting progressive laws and repealing draconian legislation.
  • Promote accountability and transparency by proactively disclosing information in a timely manner and expeditiously responding to information requests from citizens.
  1. Civil Society, the Private Sector and Tech Communities
  • Jointly push for the amendment of regressive laws that undermine digital rights, and contribute to law-making processes by analysing bills and making proposals for reform, repeal or amendment. 
  • Advocate for compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to ensure that violations of human rights are minimised in the course of doing business.
  • Engage in strategic and collaborative litigation to challenge all measures by governments which curtail digital rights and undermine digital democracy. 
  • Build capacity of stakeholders including the media and the general public to protect and promote digital rights and to demand accountability and transparency from governments and their agencies.
  • Use human rights monitoring mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to hold their states to account.
  • Advocate for states to ratify key human rights instruments such as the AU Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection.