BudgIT, Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria) and Paradigm Initiative (PIN) will hold the fifth edition of the bi-annual Pan-African New Media, Citizens, and Governance Conference (NMCG) on November 17, 2022. The organisers made this known in a press statement issued on Monday, August 22, 2022, three months to the conference.
In recent times, there have been several attacks on digital rights in Africa. Digital rights are human rights in online spaces. These rights include but are not limited to, the right to privacy, freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of information and communication, gender rights, and the right to freedom from violence.
Citizens’ digital rights are breached if they are the subject of digital surveillance if they are covertly targeted with disinformation to manipulate their beliefs and behaviour, if their mobile or internet connection is restricted, or if they are arrested or attacked for expressing a political opinion online.
Research shows that Africa has become the most censorship-intensive continent across the globe, responsible for 10 (nearly 53%) of the cases in 2021. Africa led the social media shutdown numbers during election days (3 out of 4 total cases were in Congo, Uganda, and Zambia). Chad blocked the internet following a raid at the property of Yaya Dillo, a representative of Chad’s government opposition. The Nigerian government suspended Twitter in Nigeria, the announcement came two days after the microblogging site removed a tweet by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Violation of digital rights in Africa has become a prevalent issue and if proactive steps are not taken, it may persist.
It is therefore imperative to have an intellectual conversation on safeguarding the digital rights of African citizens before, during and after elections. The one-day conference will be held on Thursday, November 17, 2022, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, with the theme Protecting Digital Rights in Closing Spaces. The conference will have 4 breakout sessions focused on data privacy, public accountability, the inclusion of People With Disabilities (PWDs) and insecurity and others.
According to BudgIT’s Global Director, Oluseun Onigbinde, “there is no better time to emphasise the need to discuss long-standing and emerging issues with digital freedom in Africa. This includes policies and legislations that have either aided digital rights violations or improved freedom of expression, right to privacy, right to digital access, and many more. This year alone, we have seen how several African governments, including the Nigerian government, tried to stiffle access to freedom of expression on different digital platforms, against the ideals of democracy everyone should stand for. The NMCG will avail stakeholders, state actors and the civil society with the opportunity to co-create means of addressing the current loopholes”.
Speaking on the development, ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative (PIN) said, “this year’s conference comes at a very important time that we are seeing unending policy threats, citizen advocacy against closing civic spaces and upcoming elections in various African countries. NMCG 2022 will discuss how various African governments are introducing new policies and legislative proposals that promise to fight online harms but target dissenting voices, as well as analyse recent efforts that have demonstrated what’s possible when civil society and citizens fight to keep civic spaces open. With upcoming elections in Kenya, Nigeria and other African countries, the conference comes at a great time to discuss what various stakeholders must do to maximise digital opportunities during such important events”.
According to EiE’s Executive Director, ‘Yemi Adamolekun, “We underestimate how much of our lives are shaped by digital tools. We also underestimate how much governments around the world are threatened by spaces they can’t control. We look forward to exploring these issues during the conference!”.