The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is urging stakeholders in all 16 West African countries to resist all attempts by governments and regulators to limit freedom of expression online or control internet use.
The MFWA’s call follows findings from an internet rights monitoring exercise conducted by the Foundation from October – December 2015.
The findings show that in the last three months of 2015, Ghana and Nigeria respectively passed and introduced bills that have potential for curtailing free expression online.
The report cites the Ghana National Media Commission (Content Standards) Regulations, 2015 (LI 2224) passed in December 2015, and the Nigerian Bill “to Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith” which passed the second reading in the upper Chambers of Nigeria’s Senate, as attempts to control internet use in the two countries. The report indicates that LI2224 and the Frivolous Petition Bill could have widespread implications for online media organisations, intermediaries and users which could result in self-censorship out of fear of penalties and also the bureaucracy in getting content authorisation and affidavit respectively.
The report ends by calling on governments in the region to be guided by the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms which promotes a set of human rights principles to guide internet policy formulation. The report also encourages civil society organisations in the region to be proactive in engaging governments to ensure that they make inputs into draft bills and policies before they are passed. Netizens are also encouraged to support internet rights and freedoms advocacy and resist any attempt to control the internet or restrict online expression.
The monitoring and reporting of internet rights and freedoms issues in West Africa forms part of MFWA’s internet freedom project aimed at advocating for internet rights and freedoms across the region. The internet freedom project by the MFWA is supported by the UK-based Global Partners’ Digital.
Please click here for the full report: Internet Rights Monitoring in West Africa – Oct to Dec 2015 (pdf)