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Saturday, September 03, 2016

The deteriorating state of internet freedom in Africa | IDG Connect

Vincent Matinde, international IT Journalist writes, "Africa might be increasingly progressing in internet coverage but it is also slipping into a deeper state of social media and internet censorship."

Photo: IDG Connect

With the progress of internet coverage, Africa seems to be slipping into a deeper state of social media and internet censorship. Just recently, the Ethiopian government shut down social media outlets during school exam time, not to distract students.

“It’s blocked. It’s a temporary measure until Wednesday. Social media have proven to be a distraction for students,” government spokesman Getachew Reda told AFP.

Uganda blocked social media during its national elections back in February this year. The country also said that the shutdown was for security purposes. Access Now, an organisation that defends internet freedoms, estimated the cost of the shut down to the millions of dollars.

“Internet shutdowns do not restore order, protect rights, or keep people safe. They also come at a significant financial cost. Our conservative estimate for the last shutdown in Uganda comes in at around USD$25 million lost per day for e-banking services alone,” the organisation wrote in its report.

In a 2015 survey, State of Internet Freedom in East Africa 2015 [PDF] by CIPESA gave a damning report of the East African states and their incidences of preventing internet freedom.

“In Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi, hate speech content regulations pose a threat to internet freedom. Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission formed in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 post-election violence, which was partly fuelled via ICT tools (notably by SMS) remains at the forefront of bringing social media ‘abusers’ to prosecution,” the report said.

It continued that: “Meanwhile, although findings indicate that there are high perceptions that surveillance is taking place in the region, the extent of surveillance is not known. But even without evidence, these perceptions have created fear within the region, with a large number of citizens practicing self-censorship, or choosing to remain silent in online platforms for fear of reprisals.”
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Source: IDG Connect   

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