Access to Information in Uganda to be Recognised at Internet Freedom Forum

As part of its OpenNet Africa initiative which is aimed at promoting internet rights in Africa, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is next week set to host the second Forum on Internet Freedom in East Africa. The two-day event is scheduled for 28 and 29 September 2015, in Kampala, Uganda and will coincide with the International Right to Know Day.

Uganda was the first of two  countries in East Africa to adopt  an Access to Information Act (ATIA) in 2005 (the other is Rwanda in 2013) which promotes the right of access to information and supports public participation in decision-making processes. As part of the forum the Ministry of Information and National Guidance in the Office of the Prime Minister (Uganda) in partnership with CIPESA and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) will celebrate the 10th anniversary of ATIA, host discussions to evaluate the implementation of the law, how to overcome challenges on implementation and proposals for amendments. The second State of Right to Information (RTI) in Africa report will also be presented.

In Africa, Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the private sector, academia and ordinary citizens are increasingly utilizing online tools for social and economic engagement, online debate, advocacy and business development. The Forum will serve as a platform to discuss how the current state of internet freedoms in Africa affects these engagements. Further, it will also explore the threats online engagements face, how emerging global issues impact upon local users, as well as the opportunities for action to promote access, privacy and security online.

The 2015 edition of the State of Internet Freedom in East Africa Report will be launched at the Forum.

Ashnah Kalemera, Programmes Associate at CIPESA, says that, “This report is the culmination of exploratory research conducted in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda into the threats to access, privacy and security online, as well as the knowledge, attitudes and practices of citizens on internet freedoms in these countries. The insights gathered can help guide policy makers, civil society, telecommunication regulatory authorities in understanding the internet freedom landscape in the region including the challenges, opportunities and developments.”

According to the International Telecommunication Union, by the end of 2015, there will be 3.2 billion users of the internet, of which 2 billion will come from developing countries. This translates to 34% of households in developing countries accessing the Internet, compared with more than 80% in developed countries. In the report focus countries, internet penetration in Burundi stands at 4.9% (2013 statistics), while according to 2014 statistics, Kenya had a penetration of 52%, while Rwanda was 20%, Tanzania at 4.8% and in Uganda at 20%.

The Forum brings together human rights defenders, journalists, government officials, academia, bloggers, developers, the arts community, law enforcement agencies and communication regulators, all of whom have a role to play in advancing the rights of citizens to privacy and freedom of expression in the online sphere.

Participants confirmed to attend hail from Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Speakers at the panel will come from organizations including Article 19, Bayimba (Uganda), Bloggers Association Kenya, Chapter 4, ICT Association Uganda (ICTAU), Globaleaks, Global Voices (Uganda), Great Lakes Voices (Rwanda), Hub for Investigative Media (HIM), iHub Research (Kenya), Internet Society [(Africa, Burundi and Uganda Chapters], Jamii Forums (Tanzania), UNESCO, Facebook, Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), Makerere University (Uganda), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Protège QV, Uganda Media Centre, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Uganda Police Cybercrime Unit, University of Nairobi, Web We Want, Writivism (Uganda) and the Women Of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) among others.

Topics to be discussed include electioneering and extremism in the digital age, press freedom, access to information online, the economics of the internet, digital safety, online violence against women and cybercrime. See the Programme.

We are thankful for the support received from the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME)Ford Foundation, Hivos, Open Technology Fund, UNESCO and Web We Want.


Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, and Media Safety in the Digital Age

Every year, 3 May is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
Over 100 national celebrations take place each year to commemorate this Day. UNESCO leads the worldwide celebration by identifying the global thematic and organizing the main event in different parts of world every year.
The international day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.
To mark the 2015 World Press Freedom day, UNESCO will lead the global celebration with a main event under the theme “Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, and Media Safety in the Digital Age”.  The event is co-organized by UNESCO and the Government of Latvia, and will take place from 2-4 May 2015 in Riga, Latvia.
The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) will be participating in the event represented by Wairagala Wakabi as one of the speakers in the Plenary 3 Session on “Digital Safety for Journalists” on 4 May 2015.  The discussions during this session will be enriched by CIPESA’s experience and expertise, particularly under its OpenNet Africa initiative.
Meanwhile, on May 2, CIPESA will convene journalists in Kampala, Uganda for digital safety training as part of its ongoing online security capacity building efforts for human rights defenders, minority groups, activists and the media in East Africa.

Tanzania Cybercrime Bill Should Safeguard Citizens’ Rights on the Internet

By Juliet Nanfuka |
Tanzania has published a Cybercrime Bill that makes “provisions for criminalizing offences related to computer systems and Information Communication Technologies” and provides for investigation, collection, and use of electronic evidence.
However, the release of the Cybercrime Bill has been met with apprehension by the public due to its overt disregard for press freedom and freedom of expression, the excessive powers granted to police, and the limited protections afforded to ordinary citizens.
On social media, critics have suggested that the timing and content of the Bill were intended to control the media and bloggers ahead of the October 2015 elections. According to the 2014 State of Internet Freedom in Tanzania report, the process of making Cybercrime laws began in 2013 with proposals for the development of the Cyber security Act, Data Protection Act and the Electronic Transacting Act by the end of 2014.
Some of the problematic clauses in the Bill that affect freedom of expression and privacy include Sections 7, 8, 14, 16, 31, 32, 34, 35, 37, 41 and 45.
Section 7 (2) criminalises citizens who receive unauthorized computer data.  There should be consideration of content received with intent and without.
Section 8 and 16 provide vague descriptions of phrases including “unauthorized data” and “false information.” In Section 8, one can be charged with data espionage for obtaining “computer data protected against unauthorized access without permission.” The parameters that define unauthorized data need to be indicated as this could have an impact upon investigative journalists and confidentiality of their sources.
In Section 16, on the Publication of false information, the terms “deceptive, misleading and inaccurate information” are subjective and open to abuse by implementers of the law. A clear definition of what constitutes these terms needs to be stipulated in the bill. Moreover, there should be consideration of  the intent of those who publish such information, failing which the law would ultimately stifle freedom of expression, including of creative expression.
Also the lack of definition for ‘unauthorised data’ in Section 7 (2b) and “unsolicited messages” in Section 30 makes the bill open to misinterpretation and abuse by state authorities.
On the issue of pornography, the Bill should not proscribe the offence of pornography in general, particularly where not shared in public and where all parties that access it are adults. As is currently framed, Section 14 can be used to abuse individuals’ right to privacy. Besides, a clear definition of pornography which is “lascivious” or “obscene” should be added to the Bill.
Sections 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35 of the bill provide excessive powers to the police for search and seizure of computer systems; and disclosure of data. These sections should provide clear guidelines, safeguards and oversight, including the requirement for a warrant issued by a competent court of law before any search and seize or disclosure of data is to be undertaken.
For section 31, owners of the property or other independent parties should also be witness to such activity by the police for the safety of the equipment and data seized to be guaranteed.
According to Section 32 (1), “where disclosure of data is required for purposes of criminal investigation or the prosecution of an offence, a police officer in charge of a police station or a law enforcement officer of a similar rank may issue an order to anyperson in possession of such data compelling him todisclose such data.” This section needs to be adjusted to include police officers first obtaining a court order before compelling any person to disclose data.
On the disclosure of data in Clause 32 (3) b, there should be a clear indication as to the kind and extent of information a service provider can provide. Service providers should be required to report subscriber information requests in the public domain on a regular basis.
Further, there needs to indicate means of storage, retention period and methods of disposal for data collected or recorded through technical means as provided under Section 35 (b).
In regard to Section 37 (9), where service providers are required to support the installation of forensic tools, for purposes of transparency they should be compelled to provide reports of such requests made to them.
Section 41 provides for that  a hosting provider is not liable for information stored at the request of a user of the service, however following orders from any “competent authority” or court, the provider has to take down offending information. The Bill should name the authority or authorities who can issue an order to a hosting provider. The Bill should also indicate what the course of action in the event that a hosting provider does not comply with the order or where the owner of the information wants to contest the take-down order issued by the competent authority.
In regard to “Take down notifications” as provided in Section 45, service providers should notify the persons upon whom a complaint has been lodged, including the reason for the take down.
Also a section compelling service providers to periodically release takedown requests and actions taken to the public should be included.
There is no indication on the rights the users have of their data nor how it is protected once in the hands of the state, thus further putting citizens’ data at risk especially in the absence of a data privacy and protection law.
The Bill was this week tabled in Parliament by Communication, Science and Technology Minister Professor Makame Mbarawa.  However, in their discussions Members of Parliament should consider the amendments proposed by civil society so that the country gets a progressive law that strongly supports freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

Is Kenya Putting the Chill on Internet Freedoms?

By Juliet Nanfuka |
The rights of Kenya’s digital citizens are fast shrinking in the face of new restrictive laws and increased arraignment of individuals for expressing online opinions which authorities deem in breach of the law.
The Security Laws (Amendment) Act 2014, assented to by President Uhuru Kenyatta last December, allows blanket admissibility in court of electronic messages and digital material regardless of whether it is not in its original form.
It is feared that retrogressive provisions in this law could be used to put the chill on internet freedoms in East Africa’s most connected country where mobile phone penetration stands at 80% and internet access at 50% of the population.
Part V of the new security law regarding “special operations” has raised particular concerns, as it expands the surveillance capabilities of the Kenyan intelligence and law enforcement agencies without sufficient procedural safeguards.
It gives broad powers to the Director General of the National Intelligence Service to authorise any officer of the Service to monitor communications, “obtain any information, material, record, document or thing” and “to take all necessary action, within the law, to preserve national security.”
In addition, the amendments also contain unclear procedural safeguards especially in the interception of communications by “National Security Organs” for the purposes of detecting or disrupting acts of terrorism.
Even though there is a provision for a warrant to be issued by a court of law, the broad definition of ‘national security’ leaves no room for restrictions on the extent of power the law grants to National Intelligence Service when it comes to accessing personal data, information and communications.
In February 2015, the Kenya High Court struck some clauses from the security law. The government says it may appeal.
Government says the new law is necessary to fight al Shabaab militants who have repeatedly rocked the country with fatal attacks such as the Westgate shopping centre attack on September 21, 2013, which left 67 people dead. Human rights activists blame President Kenyatta’s government for steadily shrinking the space for civil actors, a pattern they say was manifested in the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Act 2013 and the Media Council Act 2013. These laws, they say, placed restrictions on media freedom and general freedom of expression.
The proposed Cybercrime and Computer related Crimes Bill (2014) also falls short of constitutional guarantees as it is contains “broad” speech offences with potentially chilling effects on free speech. See a full legal analysis of the Bill by Article 19. Proposed regulations to the law governing non-government organisations, which cap the funds received from foreigners at 15% of their overall budgets, have also been criticised as aimed to curtail and control the activities of civic groups engaged in governance and human rights work.
Over the 2012-2013 election period, several individuals were charged in court over their online communications. The National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008 has been used to charge many for promoting hate speech – which some Kenyan citizens found justifiable given the role that hate speech played in the 2007 to 2008 post-election violence.
Hate Speech is defined by the 2008 Act as speech that is “threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words” with the intention to stir up ethnic hatred or a likelihood that ethnic hatred will be stirred up. Authorities, however, seem to be shifting gear and using this charge among others against online journalists and bloggers that criticise the Kenyatta government.
In December 2014, blogger Robert Alai was arrested and charged with undermining the authority of a public officer contrary to Section 132 of the Penal Code by allegedly calling President Kenyatta an “adolescent president” in a blog. He was again arrested in February 2015 for offending a businessman online by linking him to a land saga that involved the illegal acquisition of the Langata Primary School playground.
Meanwhile, Allan Wadi – a student – was also arrested for “hate speech” and jailed in January 2015 for posting negative comments on Facebook about the president. In the same month, journalist Abraham Mutai was arrested following tweets he posted on corruption in the Isiolo County Government. He was charged with the “misuse of a licensed communication platform to cause anxiety.”
Nancy Mbindalah, an intern with the department of finance at the Embu County Government, was charged on similar grounds for social media posts dating as far back as 2013 in which she is alleged to have abused County Governor Martin Wambora.
In all instances, some social media users claimed there were “selective” arrests and prosecution of those critical of government. Critics cited the case of Moses Kuria, a Member of Parliament (MP) for Gatundu South, who allegedly made remarks on Facebook against the Luo Community but did not face the same punitive actions.
A recent news report, however, indicates that the National Cohesion and Reconciliation Commission and the Public Prosecutor are calling for the MP’s case to be revisited for the “incitement to violence, hate speech and fanning ethnic hatred.”
The incidents of arrest, prosecution and law amendments demonstrate a recurring theme of clamping down on dissenting citizen voices, a concern that was highlighted by the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the International Federation for Human Rights following the enactment of the Security Laws (Amendment) Act.
While the country remains on a constant alert for terror attacks, this has been used to strengthen the control that the state has on freedom of expression and surveillance. The lack of laws that limit state access to citizens’ information further exacerbates this concern.

Women And Internet Freedom In East Africa

On March 8, International Women’s Day was marked across the world under the theme “Make It Happen.” The OpenNet Africa initiative, which monitors and promotes internet freedom in Africa, participated in a series of online discussions focused on women in the digital sphere.
A shared theme across all discussions to mark the day was the call for greater protections of women’s rights both online and offline. Many of the disadvantages faced by women offline have been transferred online, leaving many excluded from the information society, while those with access are sometimes targets of online hostility, such as gender based reputation and privacy attacks. In Africa, a key offline disproportionality is the education level and in turn ICT literacy variance between men and women.

Pan-African efforts such as the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms call for the creation and promotion of online content that “reflects women’s voices and needs, that promotes and supports women’s rights – in order to address existing gender inequalities and encourage active participation and empowerment of women via online spaces.” The Declaration recognises the need for mechanisms that enable the full, active and equal participation of women and girls in decision-making about how the Internet is shaped and governed.

@OpenNetAfrica in #Tanzania, the April Parliamentary Session is expected to have a bill that ‘might’ do! @endalk2006 #WomenOnlineEA — Jamii Forums (@JamiiForums) March 9, 2015
On March 7, the Unwanted Witness and the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) held a twitterthon using the hashtag #WomenOnlineEA to highlight and create awareness on the important role women have played in the development of Uganda through ICT.
Using the hashtag #ICT4Women and reflections from a report titled Cyber Infrastructure: A Women’s Issue Too!, the discussions focused on the impact digital communications have had on women globally and in Uganda. According to the report, as ICT access and use increases in Uganda, a balanced ICT policy that includes women as key stakeholders should be pursued.
The sentiments of the twitterthon were echoed during a post-International Women’s Day twitter chat held amongst OpenNet Africa partners including Jamii Forums (Tanzania), East & Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and experts from Ethiopia and Burundi on March 9. This chat used the hashtag #WomenOnlineEA and also touched on issues discussed during Safer Internet Day which explored Promoting Online Safety in Africa on February 10. 
Participants in this chat concluded that efforts to increase internet access for women should be complemented with the fundamental rights to privacy, access to information and data protection as some of the key requirements of internet freedom. Increased mobile phone access in particular was pointed out as a key driver for inclusivity and participation online for women.
According to the 2014 State of Internet Freedom in East Africa report, increased mobile penetration has contributed towards more internet users. Conversely, women on average are 14% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, according to a  recent GSMA report which also indicates that despite women seeing value in mobile phones as life enhancing tools, there are 200 million fewer women than men owning mobile phones globally.
According to the ITU, there are fewer women in developing countries online than there are men. In 2013, this figure stood at 16% fewer women than men accessing the internet in developing countries. Indeed, some twitter chat participants pointed out that internet access was not a key priority for women in developing countries. Rather, focus should be given to access to clean water, electricity and sanitation needs, among others.  This was, however, countered with the argument that access to the internet is no less a priority for women than access to other basic needs.

  @OpenNetAfrica @JamiiForums @nkurunzizajp We envision more women empowered to use the internet for #Social #Economic change #WomenOnlineEA

Throughout the discussions, participants shared reports and insights on internet freedom from their respective countries in what is an increasingly transforming area in the region. See A brief look into Internet Freedom and women in East Africa for a summary of the twitterthon.