By Wallace Mawire
The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) will on 27 to 29 September 2016 host the 2016 forum on internet freedom in Africa to explore new issues affecting internet freedom in Africa, according to a recent statement released by the organisation.
According to CIPESA, this year they expect to expand on the number of countries they conduct research in on the state of internet freedom as well as broaden the discussions that form the pillar of the forum.
It is also reported that 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 regulations from 18 countries.
The 2014 forum hosted 85 participants from six countries. Some of the countries which have participated in previous forums include Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Cameroon, DRC, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, UK,USA and Zambia.
Organisers say that 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.
It is also reported that the 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 like in Asis, America and 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,” CIPESA said.
The forum is also being held at a time when the conversation on the need to promote internet freedom is crucial and the forum will provide a unique opportunity for deliberations and building a network of African actors to promote internet freedom for a range of civic actors.
CIPESA says that presently there is a minimal collaboration between African tools developers and those on the frontlines defending human rights. It is also expected to bring together African technical experts to explore ways in which they can work together in advancing internet freedom, including on testing tools and user interfaces, on digital security training and secure design.
It is expected to empower developers from the region to appreciate internet freedom tools design and to turn them into advocates of secure tools to protect internet freedom.
Another key feature of the forum is the assembly of discussions that take place and how each of these influences the work onwards of many of the participants at the forum.Topics explored to date include discussions around the growing presence of online violence against women, 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 and bridging the gap between techies.
The need to address gaps, policy and legislative in the right to privacy will be explored including continued capacity building and awareness raising among citizens, media, human rights defenders and activists on the appreciation of digital safety tools and practices.