iWatch Africa, a not-for-profit organisation, based in Accra on 29th September 2020 presented to the world its efforts at developing guidelines to help sanitise and guide online activities in Ghana. iWatch Africa’s presentations form part of the seventh annual forum on internet freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) which is co-hosted by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and Paradigm Initiative (PIN). The webinar programme was attended by participants around the world, including Nigeria, Azerbaijan, South Africa, and Malawi.
The 2020 FIFAfrica programme affords the opportunity to stakeholders in the internet governance and digital rights space to deliberate on matters keys to having a freer online ecosystem where privacy is adhered to, and people are able to freely express themselves, where there are no discrimination(s) in the flow of information. These gaps which must be addressed are essential to guaranteeing and respecting the rights of individuals in Africa.
Recounting the work of iWatch Africa on countering online abuse and harassment of journalists and rights activists in Africa, the Director for Policy and News, Mr. Gideon Sarpong took the participants through iWatch Africa’s Digital Rights Campaign project which is supported by CIPESA. Mr Sarpong highlighted the key components of the project which included; digital campaigns, tracking and documentation of all online abuses directed at journalists and human rights activists, and creating a lasting collaborating with CHRAJ and Ghana Police to design and develop protocols required to ensure safer online space of Ghana.
Mr. Moro Seidu, who is the Director for Monitoring and Evaluation at iWatch Africa on his part provided the main findings of the online abuse tracking which has been ongoing for the past six (6) months. Mr Seidu indicated that so far over 4,130 cases of abuse involving over 102 journalist and human rights activists have been tracked and reports produced. Quite intriguing in the reports is the fact that though females account for circa 27 percent of tracked people, over 55 percent of those abused were females.
He further noted that twitter, Instagram and Facebook were the main conduits through which most of the abuse occur in Ghana and the reasons assigned for the abuses varied, including; the perceived political or ideological position of the journalists, the organisation that they work for among others. Mr Seidu again indicated that from the data collected and analysed, the most abused for the reporting period were reporters/correspondents and online journalist, followed by presenters and bloggers. Prominent in the list of those abused are Bridget Otoo, Manasseh Azure Awuni, Nana Yaw Laryea and Nana Aba Anamoah.
On his part, Mr Kyeremeh Henry, who is the Director for Economic and Finance at iWatch Africa, took the participants through the guidelines document being drafted by iWatch Africa towards sanitising the online ecosystem of Ghana. He noted that the guidelines have become necessary, owing to the significant increase in online abuse witnessed in recent times in Ghana. He bemoaned the absence of functioning legal regimes in guiding and guarding the online space by weeding out those who use the internet for wrong reasons.
Mr Kyeremeh highlighted the difficulties in policing the online ecosystem because of the transnational nature of the ecosystem, lax legislation especially in developing countries, funding constraints, and finally inadequate human resources to take care of the emerging issue in cybersecurity. He further noted that the threats from internet misuse does not only affect individuals and Organisations but also countries and their national security.
The draft guidelines, when adopted by the relevant government agencies, will help address the abuses witnessed in the online space for some time now. The guidelines take into account the relevant laws in Ghana that seeks to sanitise the online activities in Ghana including the Electronic Transactions Act, 2008 (Act 772), Electronic Communication Act, 2008 (Act 775), and the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843). The guidelines shall be applicable to all individuals, Organisations and by extension, the central government. The guidelines represent the concerted effort aimed at addressing the cyber menace, which in recent is fast becoming a canker. Mr Kyeremeh noted that ultimately the guidelines would help prevent, detect and finally recover the cyber ecosystem anytime an attack occurs.
The draft guidelines made provision for the sanitisation of the cyberspace, proposed ways and means to deal with abusers, provided some concrete means through which cyber hygiene could be restored in Ghana and finally provided the rehabilitative measures for those abused. In a nutshell, Mr Kyeremeh quoted the profound statements of Anna Maria Chaves, where she indicated that “Unless and until our society recognises cyberbullying for what it is, the suffering of thousands of silent victims will continue.”
The Lead of iWatch Africa, Nana Boakye Yiadom moderated the programme with able assistance from Mr. Philip Kwasi Banini, who is the Director for Research and Communication for iWatch Africa.
Credit: iWatch Africa | Follow: Follow @@iwatchafrica