Declaration Seeks to Protect Internet Rights and Freedoms

With the increasing penetration and access to the internet in Africa, there have been questions about the comprehensive protection of human rights within the context of digital engagement. With this background, the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms was developed to address this challenge.

Here are some of the highlights of the declaration.

  • Need for open and distributed architecture

The declaration calls for all data online to be treated in an equal and non-discriminatory manner.  This means that there should be equal opportunities to share information as it is an important part to promote freedom of expression and cultural diversity.  While it calls for no obstacles in terms of online engagement, it does not prevent the creation and implementation of any affirmative action for marginalised groups.

  • Internet should be affordable and accessible

All people in Africa should be able to access and affordable without any discrimination in terms of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political, national or social origin, property, birth or any other status.  The declaration calls for the creation of policies and regulations that foster affordability and accessibility and addressing the gender divide.  It also calls for the adoption of best practices to foster internet access.

  • Privacy and personal data protection

The declaration calls for the right of every individual to communicate anonymously on the internet as well a the right to privacy.  It requires that any data collected, retained, used and disclosed should be done in compliance with a transparent privacy policy that allows users to know what data has been collected, if the data is accurate and whether they can correct it and have such data protected. The declaration further requires the public to be informed of any potential misuse, loss or theft of their data.

  • Right to Due Process

According to the declaration, no internet user should be arbitrarily detained or punished for any action over the internet. Any person who has violated any law regarding the internet is entitled to a fair and public hearing
by an independent, competent and impartial tribunal within a reasonable time.

  • Gender Equality

Understanding the internet reflects the inequality women and girls face, the declaration calls for the use of the principles of the internet to foster gender equality. This means that laws and regulations that protect women and girls from discrimination should be established. It also requires the establishment of tools that can be used in the monitoring abuse and improving protection and anonymity of women and girls using the internet.

The declaration also mentions how African countries have adopted laws, rules and regulations from other countries without identifying the unique needs of Africans and without consideration of human rights in their application. It, therefore, calls for African governments to not only endorse this declaration but also to adopt frameworks (legal, regulatory and policy) to implement the declaration and protect the rights herein.

Image: Wikimedia

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