Media Foundation calls for digital empowerment of citizenry

By
Iddi Yire/William Fiabu, GNA

Accra, Sept. 27, GNA –
Mr Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director, Media Foundation for West Africa
(MFWA), has called for the digital empowerment of the citizens of African
countries to enable them to demand accountability from their leaders through
the internet.

He said the internet
was an effective tool, which would enable the citizens to participate in the
democratic governance of their nations and also demand accountability from duty
bearers in ensuring that the vast natural resource endowment that they had were
put to their benefit.

Mr Braimah, who was
speaking on Thursday at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2018
(FIFAfrica18) in Accra, said every one recognised the importance of the
internet across Africa because more and more people were getting empowered
through it.

The three-day meeting
is being organised by the Collaboration for International ICT Policy in East
and Southern Africa (CIPESA), in partnership with the MFWA.

The Forum is a
landmark event that convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance
and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns
and opportunities for advancing privacy, access to information, free
expression, non-discrimination and the free flow of information online on the
continent.

Since its inception,
FIFAfrica has also served as a platform to mark the International Day for
Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).

Engagements at the
Forum, which is being attended by over 360 participants from across the African
continent and beyond, aims to reflect current trends and concerns in access and
usage of the internet and related technologies on the continent.

Mr Braimah said in
some African countries, duty bearers were also exploring ways to make sure that
people were limited in terms of the extent to which they get the opportunity to
demand accountability and to have a voice in governance processes.

“And so it’s either
the net is being shut down, as we know has happened on a number of occasions in
Cameroon and of course Uganda…. In Ghana it doesn’t happen.”

Mr Braimah said apart
from the phenomenon of shut downs, there were increasingly the tendency of some
African governments and security agencies arresting arbitrarily, quite often
detaining victims, harassing or beating up bloggers, social media activists and
citizen journalists.

“Certainly this is a
worrying trend but of course we do appreciate that government predominantly in
Africa would always want to have their way and therefore, the trend where
citizens through the internet are getting more and more empowered would
certainly be something that they would want to counter,” he said.

He said the Accra
Forum would come out with ways “to empower the citizenry to make sure that they
were able to counter all the push backs that were being rolled out; be it in
the form of laws, in the form of policies, or all manners of repression in terms
of detentions, arrest, beating people and so on and so forth.”

“And we also know that
government would at all times try to use national security as an excuse to try
and limit the spaces for citizens’ participation and citizens’ voices. We know
that you know countries are at the moment developing cyber security policies,
cyber security laws and others,” he said.

“And this is the time
we must be engaged, this is the time we need to have a conversation, and this
is the time to empower each other to understand how we can engage these stake
holders or these duty bearers as they go on with the development of these
policies and these pieces of legislation.”

Mr Charles
Onyango-Obbo, the Founder and Publisher, Africapedia Limited, said today’s
generation must fight for internet freedom in Africa.

He said “The Big Men”
(African dictators) now understand that the internet had allowed a new type of
“digital/visual secession”.

Dr Wairagala Wakabi,
Executive Director, CIPESA, lauded Ghana for its excellent democratic
credentials; which was a model for the rest of Africa to emulate.

He said spreading the
physical footprint of FIFAfrica across different regions of the continent would
ensure that the Forum lives up to its goal of unpacking internet freedom
challenges and opportunities in sub-regions of Africa and developing responses
that are collaborative, and informed by insights from the experience of other
sub-regions of the continent.

GNA

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