Program Director of Dataphyte, Adenike Aloba has taken a swipe at African governments for their weakness or inability to properly regulate the digital space, an act which limits the full enjoyment of the freedom and fundamental human rights of the masses.
She contends that most of the laws and policies by governments geared towards regulating the digital space in the African context have resulted into a lot of internet shutdowns including attack on press freedom and violation of the rights of journalists and activists among others which have been the trend.
“We’ve seen a lot of journalists being attacked online with bots and being thrown, we’ve seen people being tracked and their things being taken out. We’ve also seen the African governments turn towards when they don’t understand anything they shut it down and that has been the tendency so no, we can’t say that they’re doing well”.
Adenike made this known in an interview with the Human Rights Reporter’s Joseph Wemakor on the sidelines of a 2-day ( Sept. 20-21, 2022) Digital Clinic for Civic Actors in Lagos, Nigeria.
Mr. Wemakor sought to know her views on whether the authorities have lived up to expectation when it comes to proper regulating of digital space within the African continent.
The Digital Clinic which brought together some selected journalists and civic actors from across West Africa namely Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Nigeria was initiated by the Interactive Initiative for Social Impact (Dataphyte) in collaboration with Spaces for Change (S4C).
The training was aimed at exposing civic actors to the threats in the digital world and equip them with knowledge and practical solutions to deal with the threats to help minimize the risks they pose.
Its goal is to help journalists and civil society protect their information, data, devices and communications against digital security threats.
The participants were taken through topic such as Investigative Journalism Practice in the Digital Space: Risks and Rewards, Deep Dive on Digital Rights in the West African Context, Whistleblowing Policy and Practice in the West African Context and Practical Session on Digital Safety Tools.
It includes Digital Safety and Security Through a Gendered Lens, Data Protection Strategies, Roles and Responsibilities, Social Protection and Rapid Response Mechanisms for Whistleblowing and Digital Safety and Practical Session on Digital Safety Schools-Psychological Safety.
As the world transitions to a digital space, threats are fast increasing online, while people’s rights to freedom of expression, access to the internet and privacy among others are being denied, a trend which is a cause of worry.
But Adenike Aloba who equally doubles as the Managing News Editor of Dataphyte believes the authorities have a major role to play in helping citizens overcome these threats to always remain safe.
“This is a challenge being faced across the world, but it is only in African countries we are seeing laws that want to shut down, that want to control rather than figure out a solution that is more long-term”, she bemoaned.
According to her, although some governments are doing better in terms of regulation of the digital space, others are still lagging behind due to a significant lack of trust between the people and governments.
Citing a typical example of bad regulation of the digital space in the African context, he pointed to a social media bill being set up by the Nigerian government which gives the police the power to determine fake news or abuse of the digital space.
For her, dialogue is a means through which governments can help craft better policies and laws to safeguard the digital space.
“Dialogue is important when you are designing a policy or something then there has to be public engagement because of its public policy for crying out loud”.
She called on all and sundry to do everything humanly possible to protect themselves against the threats while advocating strongly for better laws or policies in place that can help promote and protect digital rights.