African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms as a Tool to Promote Internet Freedoms

MISA Zimbabwe utilised the recently held Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance Conference to raise awareness about the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (AfDec).

AfDec elaborates “… on the principles which are necessary to uphold human and people’s rights on the Internet, and to cultivate an Internet environment that can best meet Africa’s social and economic development needs and goals.”

Furthermore, the AfDec initiative seeks to build on seminal African human rights instruments such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press, the African Charter on Broadcasting, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, and the African Platform on Access to Information Declaration.

MISA Zimbabwe endorsed and joined AfDec in 2015 upon realising that AfDec aims to achieve the same objectives that the organisation is working on in relation to Internet freedoms.

During this year’s Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance Conference, MISA Zimbabwe invited Izak Minnaar and Hlengiwe Dube, to discuss how AfDec can be utilised in the southern African region as a tool to promote the exercise of Internet freedoms.

The two AfDec members framed their discussions around the AfDec principles of freedom of information and access to information.

Minnaar made references to African Union member States’ obligations under ACHPR Resolution 362 of 2016 to implement “legislative and other measures to guarantee, respect and protect citizens’ right to freedom of information and expression through access to Internet services” in line with the Commission’s resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa.

Additionally, he spoke about the role of ACHPR’s Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information. This is a soft law instrument meant to guide governments on how to promote the rights to freedom of expression and access to information in the age of Internet based communications. In terms of Principle 37, States are encouraged to facilitate access to the Internet by:

  • Facilitating freedom of expression and access to information online and the means necessary to exercise these rights.
  • Recognising that universal, equitable, affordable and meaningful access to the internet is necessary for the realisation of freedom of expression, access to information and the exercise of other human rights.
  • Cooperating with all relevant stakeholders adopt laws, policies and other measures to provide universal, equitable, affordable and meaningful access to the internet without discrimination.

Dube analysed Zimbabwe’s Freedom of Information Bill against the access to information and free expression standards set out in AfDec and the revised ACHPR Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

She reminded conference participants to always remember that access to information legislation must address the needs of minorities such as people living with disabilities.

AfDec Co-ordinator, Koliwe Majama, who facilitated the session, also pointed out the need to involve ordinary people including sexual minorities in the Internet Governance dialogue as well as paying attention to their unique access to information and freedom of expression needs.

Source: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Zimbabwe)