The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has urged policy makers in West Africa to adopt internet policies and regulations that respect established human rights norms and principles to create an enabling environment for the creation, use and dissemination of information on the internet.
The call was made following the publication of findings from monitoring of internet rights violations and other developments in West Africa.
The findings show that while some governments in the region are introducing new policies and laws to regulate internet use in their countries, others are already applying existing laws to control online expression. Specifically, the findings show that existing libel and defamation laws have been used against some individuals for content they published on Facebook and/or WhatsApp.
The MFWA is therefore calling on governments and regulatory bodies in the region to be mindful of their duty to protect and safeguard the fundamental rights and freedoms of their citizens – including freedom of expression rights– in their policy and regulatory interventions. The MFWA recommends a multistakeholder approach to such interventions to ensure that the concerns of all stakeholders in the internet ecosystem in the respective countries are factored into policy formulation.
The monitoring and reporting of online violations and other developments in West Africa is an initiative by the MFWA with funding support from UK-based Global Partners Digital. The exercise is aimed at generating evidence-based reports on the online environment in the respective countries in the region which can be used as reference materials and advocacy tools by other human rights defenders and online activists.
The full Internet Rights Monitoring in West Africa report for April-September 2015 can be accessed here.