Digital Rights in Closing Civic Space: Lessons from Ten African Countries
February 2021 Tony Roberts (ed.)
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First published by the Institute of Development Studies February 2021 Editor: Tony Roberts
Citation: Roberts, T. (ed.) (2021) Digital Rights in Closing Civic Space: Lessons from Ten African Countries, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, DOI: 10.19088/IDS.2021.003
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Digital Rights in Closing Civic Space: Lessons from Ten African Countries
February 2021 Tony Roberts (ed.)
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The African Digital Rights Network (ADRN) and this publication are generously funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCFR) through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Collective Fund for Digital Innovation for Development in Africa.
The authors would also like to thank Kevin Hernandez, Andrea Jimenez Cisneros, Becky Faith, and Pedro Prieto Martín for reviewing and helping improve earlier versions of these reports, David Haddock for the graphics, Production Editor Beth Richard, and copy editors James Middleton and Dee Scholey.
Notes on Contributors (5)
Opening and Closing Online Civic Space in Africa: An Introduction to the Ten Digital Rights Landscape Reports (9) by Tony Roberts and Abrar Mohamed Ali
Zimbabwe Digital Rights Landscape Report (43) by George Karekwaivanane and Natasha Msonza
Zambia Digital Rights Landscape Report (61) by Sam Phiri and Zorro
Uganda Digital Rights Landscape Report (85) by Juliet Nanfuka
Sudan Digital Rights Landscape Report (105) by Abrar Mohamed Ali
South Africa Digital Rights Landscape Report (125) by Tanja Bosch and Tony Roberts
Nigeria Digital Rights Landscape Report (145) by Oyewole Oladapo and Ayo Ojebode
Kenya Digital Rights Landscape Report (167) by Nanjala Nyabola
Ethiopia Digital Rights Landscape Report (185) by Iginio Gagliardone and Atnafu Brhane
Egypt Digital Rights Landscape Report (209) by Mohamed Farahat
Cameroon Digital Rights Landscape Report (229) by Kathleen Ndongmo
Abrar Mohamed Ali is a development practitioner and digital rights researcher in Khartoum, Sudan. She holds an MA in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies, UK. Abrar’s research interests include digital rights in Africa and, more specifically, internet shutdowns in Africa.
Tanja Bosch is Associate Professor of Media Studies and Production in the Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town. She teaches multimedia production, social media, and qualitative research methods. Her book Broadcasting Democracy: Radio and Identity in South Africa was published by HSRC Press in 2017. Her second book, Social Media and Everyday Life in South Africa (2021, Routledge), explores how South Africans use social media for personal and group identity formation. Tanja is at the forefront of publishing in the area of social media activism in Africa, most notably on #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall.
Atnafu Brhane is a digital rights activist based in Ethiopia. In 2012, he co-founded the blogging collective Zone9 Bloggers and conducted extensive social media campaigns on rule of law, constitutionalism, and freedom of expression. In 2016, the collective accepted awards from Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Martin Ennals, and Committee to Protect Journalists. In 2014, Atnafu was arrested and charged with Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism proclamation and was imprisoned for 18 months. From 2018–19, Atnafu was Digital Integrity Fellow at Open Technology Fund and worked with human rights defenders and human rights organisations in Ethiopia on creating awareness in digital literacy, privacy, and security. He co-founded the Network for Digital Rights in Ethiopia and is Programme Director and co-founder of the Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy.
Mohamed Farahat is an Egyptian-based legal practitioner, trainer, and political researcher. He works as Legal Analyst for HUMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, as Legal Consultant for International Organization for Migration Egypt, as Legal Expert for the Center for Migration and Refugees Studies, and as Research Fellow for ICT Policy Centre for Eastern and Southern Africa (CIPESA). He is also member of the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition steering committee and of the North Africa Internet Governance Management Advisory Group. Mohamed holds a law degree from Cairo University, and postgraduate diplomas in human rights and civil society, international negotiation, African studies, parliamentary studies, and international law. Currently, he is an MA researcher in the Faculty of High African Studies, Cairo University.
Iginio Gagliardone is Associate Professor in media and communication at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Associate Research Fellow in new media and human rights in the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy, University of Oxford. He holds a PhD from the London School of Economics. Iginio has been living between Italy, Ethiopia, the UK, and South Africa, researching the relationship between new media, political expression, and human development, and exploring the emergence of distinctive models of the information society in the global South. Recent publications include China, Africa, and the Future of the Internet (2019, Zed Books), World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development (2018, UNESCO), and The Politics of Technology in Africa (2016, Cambridge University Press).
George Hamandishe Karekwaivanane is a lecturer in African Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford and his research focuses on socio-legal studies and digital cultures. His recent publications include a Special Issue in the Journal of Eastern African Studies on ‘Publics in Africa in a Digital Age’ and The Struggle Over State Power in Zimbabwe: Law and Politics Since 1950 (2017, Cambridge University Press).
Natasha Msonza is an information security analyst, trainer, and privacy advocate. She is cofounder of the Digital Society of Africa, a distributed network of technologists that applies holistic approaches to supporting human rights defenders, marginalised communities, and everyday technology users in becoming more resilient and secure in their use of digital tools online and offline. Natasha has interests in internet governance and research. For several years, she has produced the State of Internet Freedom in Zimbabwe country report commissioned by CIPESA. Natasha holds a Master’s degree in Human Development Studies.
Ayobami Ojebode is Professor of Applied Communication in the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His research interests are in community communication, community governance, new media, and political communication. Ayobami has led and participated in research into the online advocacy and empowerment by the Bring Back Our Girls movement in Nigeria, social and political action for energy rights, voices and experiences of retiring migrants, and community media and governance. He is a member of the African Digital Rights Network and other professional and academic associations.
Oyewole Adekunle Oladapo is a lecturer in the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He received his doctoral degree in 2018 from University of Ibadan. His doctoral thesis examined variations in online and offline audiences’ deconstruction of newspaper representation of Nigeria’s unity. Oyewole’s areas of interest include media and development, protests and politics on social media, and media and identity. He has authored and co-authored book chapters and articles in both local and foreign journals.
Juliet Nanfuka has a background in journalism and new media. She works with the Collaboration on ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) where she works on digital rights research, advocacy, and projects related to the advancement of internet freedom in Africa. Juliet has a keen interest in freedom of expression, access, digital content, and the digital economy.
Nanjala Nyabola is an independent writer and researcher based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work focuses on the intersection between technology, media, and society. She has held research associate positions with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the Overseas Development Institute, the Oxford Internet Institute, and is a Digital Civil Society Fellow at Stanford University. Nanjala has published in several academic journals, including African Security Review and Women’s Studies Quarterly, and contributed to numerous edited collections. She also writes commentary and is the author of Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya (2018, Zed Books) and Travelling While Black: Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move (2020, Hurst Books).
Kathleen Ndongmo is a leading African strategist and communications specialist. A digital rights advocate, she was one of the leading voices against the Cameroonian internet shutdown of 2017, actively contributing to the #BringBackOurInternet campaign. She has authored several regional digital rights reports, including the Cameroon update for the 2016 and 2017 Digital Rights in Africa Report, and the 2019 Cameroon country report for the State of Internet Freedom in Africa report, commissioned by CIPESA. She is also a co-author to the Open Internet for Democracy Advocacy Playbook, which serves as a companion piece to Democratic Principles for an Open Internet. Kathleen is an Open Internet for Democracy Fellow, and alumna of the prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program.
Sam Phiri is a member of faculty in the Department of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Zambia where his research focuses on strategic intelligence, political communication, strategy and planning. His publications include Political Dis-Empowerment of Women by ICTs: The Case of the Zambian Elections (2016, IGI Global) and Of Elephants and Men: Understanding Gender-Based Hate Speech in Zambia’s Social Media Platforms (2020, IGI Global).
Tony Roberts is a Research Fellow in the Digital Cluster at the Institute of Development Studies. His research focuses on digital rights, digital citizenship, and digital inequalities. He has worked at the intersection of digital technologies, international development, and social justice since 1988. After lecturing in New Technology and Education at the University of East London, Tony founded and lead two international development agencies, Coda International and Computer Aid International for a decade each before completing a PhD in digital development. A full list of publications, blogs and podcasts is available on his website Appropriating Technology or on Google Scholar.