The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, participated in a consultative meeting with United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Clément Voule, in Nairobi, Kenya on 21 and 22 February 2019. The meeting was organised by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Kenyan Civil Society Reference Group. Civil society organisations from Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe participated in the meeting. They deliberated on the rights to freedom of association and assembly in the digital age, identified threats to civic space in the digital era and proposed strategies to counter those threats. The meeting was part of the interactive consultations that the UN Special Rapporteur has been undertaking with stakeholder to contribute to his report on protecting freedoms of association and assembly in the digital era.
Challenges identified include:
- the digital divide (including its gender, economic and social dimensions);
- the proliferation of restrictive policies, laws and regulations;
- network disruptions/internet shutdowns;
- government surveillance and insufficient privacy and data protection;
- online violence, including violence against women and violence against LGBTIQ people;
- social media content moderation policies and algorithms; and
In light of the aforementioned challenges, participants proposed recommendations for States, internet intermediaries, tech companies, and civil society. In addition, commitments were made among participants to continue collaborating using different mechanisms to protect and promote civic space in the digital era.
Hlengiwe Dube from the Centre for Human Rights (Democracy, Transparency and Digital Rights Unit) attended the meeting. The Democracy, Transparency and Digital Rights Unit works to promote digital rights in Africa and promote the development of normative standards that promote freedom of expression and access to information online and offline.
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