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DRIF19: Experts say no to internet policing, prefer self-policing



Lagos, April 24, 2019 Panelists at the 2019 Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) on Wednesday said that internet policing would only give room for restrictions and opted for self-policing.

They made the assertion during the opening keynote panel session of the forum in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the forum is in its seventh year.

The forum, formerly known as the Internet Freedom Forum is an annual bi-lingual pan-African forum that provides a platform to debate tough topical global issues around digital inclusion and digital rights in Africa.

DRIF is best known for its track record of tangible actionable outcomes and has gained a reputation as an important platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped and policy directions forged.

Mrs Mausi Segun, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch Africa Division said that the internet had broken down a lot of barriers and also given birth to freedom of expression.

According to her, the freedom of expression comes with both the positive and negative sides but it behoves on one to practice the dissemination of the positive aspect.

“We should practice self-policing, sanctions and accountability should also be upheld but complete policing is not acceptable,’’ she said.

Segun also called for holding the government accountable as regards inclusion of people mostly in the rural areas; as a lot of conversations are now going on the internet.

She tasked the public on organising of activism around issues to get the needed impact, saying that such had taken place in some countries such as Ethiopia where activities on the cyberspace had helped to restore peace in the country.

In her own contribution, Hawa Ba, Head of the Senegal Country Office, Open Society for West Africa (OSIWA) said that there was need to leverage on the best practices experienced on the internet.

According to her, there are many challenges of the internet but its awareness has helped in surmounting some of these challenges.

“There is awareness of the internet as an undisputable place where people can express themselves and also use to fight against inequality in the society.

“There is also need for caution about online abuses, bullying and others but internet policing will only give room for internet restrictions and will be very unhealthy,” she said.

Ba said that education should be a priority to ensure that the public, the government understood the workings of the internet band and how it was governed.

Albert Antwi-Boasiako, National Cyber Security Advisor, Government of Ghana said that internet shutdown was a way of silencing the voice not the people.

Antwi-Boasiako, who was represented by Emmanuella Darkwa, Programme Officer, International Cooperation, National Cyber security Centre, Ministry of Communication, Ghana, said that the government of Ghana was revising its policy to meet global internet norms.

“There is need to criminalise certain offence online like pornography and to do so there is need to create a formidable law to tackle that with the aid of all stakeholders,’’ she said.

Mr Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, said that digital divide was real, urging the public to always tell the truth, and copy good practices from other countries.

“ Digital Rights and Freedom Bill was not signed by the President but we are working with partners in Togo and Cameroon on positive rights legislation.

“We should also understand that the world is not made of the physical space alone and not signing the bill will not bring sanity on the cyberspace.

“In terms of getting more people into the conversation the DRIF is winning and between the 2018 Forum and 2019, paradigm initiative has released the Digital Rights in Africa.

“We are grateful to experts who are at the forum and worked with us to capture issues of relevance in their countries of residence and expertise,’’ he said.

Sesan, however, said that the good news was that in the past week, stakeholders had met to understand the need to sign the bill, of which the President gave some issues that should be addressed and those issues were being worked on.

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