Monday, May 17, 2021

New platform launched to call out digital rights violations

RIPOTI, a Swahili word that means “report” allows for a community response to digital rights violation cases.

• May 1, 2021

Rights body Paradigm Initiative has launched a new platform to combat increasing digital rights violations by private individuals and governments across the African continent.

Named RIPOTI, the platform was launched during the closing session of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum 2021. It allows citizens to track and report violations of their digital rights.

RIPOTI, a Swahili word that means “report” allows for a community response to digital rights violation cases.

In a statement released by the initiative, its director, Gbenga Sesan, explained that “Digital rights are just as fundamental as all other human rights,” while recounting “a worrying increase in digital rights violations across Africa.”

“Until now, citizens have had no easy way to protect their rights by tracking and reporting these violations. Ripoti empowers them to do that,” Mr Sesan said.

The body lamented over the “growing instances of cyber bullying, online gender violence, internet censorship, or the illegal use or accessing of an internet user’s information”.

Citing instances of how the internet was repeatedly cut off in Ethiopia and how the Nigerian government blocked Peoples Gazette website in January, the initiative, stated that “some countries have also cracked down on human rights defenders or journalists who challenge the state authorities.”

“In Ethiopia, the internet has repeatedly been cut off during times of social unrest. The same phenomenon has been reported in Cameroon. In Nigeria in January 2021, a news website known for being critical of the government was blocked, allegedly on government orders. On the eve of the Ugandan general elections in January 2021, the country’s internet was shut down for weeks. The president justified the shutdown by saying that it was in retaliation for Facebook removing some pro-government accounts, it said.

“Citizens’ rights to express themselves online and offline and gather and disseminate information and ideas are critical to the fate of democracy in Africa,” said Mr Sesan.

“Not only that, but the absence of data privacy and protection, illegal and blanket surveillance, internet shutdowns, and other rights violations all impact negatively on democracy and economic development. The centrality of digital rights makes them the business of all citizens.”

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