It’s difficult to talk about freedom of the media in Africa today, without talking about the worrying events happening in East Africa, particularly in Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. What does the rise of popular online forums across Africa say about the need for freedom of expression and speech on the internet and the pros and cons of censorship?
Just to elaborate how popular online discussion forums like Fatumas voice are today, here’s a list of the most popular forums in Kenya and Africa (In no particular order. Please post any that I may have left out as a comment below.)
Top 10 Online Discussion Forums in Africa:
- KenyaTalk (Kenya)
- Jamii Forums (Tanzania)
- South Africa Forums (South Africa)
- Fatuma’s Voice
- Cliq Afriq (Ghana)
- My Broad Band (South Africa)
- Wazua (Kenya)
- Africa Locals
- 2 Bonge
- Maths Gee
- Uliza Forum (Kenya)
One of the pinching points that led me to talk about this after a discussion on De-platforming came up by another user here.
Rise and Popularity of Online Forums across Africa:
The rise and popularity of online forums across Africa speaks volumes on peoples preference of freedom and how main stream social media has failed at this.
I have personally learnt so much from these unfiltered sources of information and would like to explore more, especially in Africa.
Of course, sometimes there is a challenge of quality, spam and abuse but we also have great content (as well as moderation and sham control) just like any other social media platform.
Censorship and Freedom of Expression on the Internet:
Heres is a series of excerpts of articles, debates and essays on laws, pros & cons and barriers to freedom of speech on the internet:
Africa has registered a rise in abuses and attacks on internet freedom, including a proliferation of laws, legal and extralegal affronts, as well as limited judicial oversight over surveillance and interception of communications.
However, there is widespread lack of knowledge on what constitutes internet freedom, coupled with limited skills and information about threats to online safety.
Internet Shutdowns in Africa
In 2018, Access Now recorded 21 shutdowns in Africa, a sharp rise from 13 shutdowns in 2017.
In that period, the longest shutdown was reported in Cameroon where it lasted at least 230 days. Similar trends were noted globally – from 75 shutdowns in 2016, incidents of shutdowns shot to 190 in 2018.
We are still in the first month of 2019 and we already have at least 3 major shutdowns – in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where it lasted 20 days, Zimbabwe, and Sudan.
Opportunities of a Free Internet for All:
The Internet offers extraordinary opportunities for “speakers,” broadly defined.
Political candidates, cultural critics, corporate gadflies — anyone who wants to express an opinion about anything — can make their thoughts available to a world-wide audience far more easily than has ever been possible before.
A large and growing group of Internet participants have seized that opportunity.
Emerging Digital Trends in Freedom of Expression:
Emerging digital trends in freedom of expression presented at 12th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which was held in Geneva.
Talking about the increasing number of internet shutdowns and its impact on media freedom, Florence Poznanski, Head of desk of Brazil Chapter from Internet sans frontières, warned that shutdowns affect more than those producing news.
Dissemination of Disinformation and Propaganda Online:
The internet is growing less free around the world, and democracy itself is withering under its influence.
Disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere. The unbridled collection of personal data has broken down traditional notions of privacy.
A cohort of countries is moving toward digital authoritarianism by embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems.
As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018.
Antidemocratic capture of the Internet – Cons:
If antidemocratic entities effectively capture the internet, citizens will be denied a forum to articulate shared values, debate policy questions, and peacefully settle intrasocietal disputes.
Democracy also requires a protected private sphere. The unrestrained and largely unexamined collection of personal data inhibits one’s right to be let alone, without which peace, prosperity, and individual freedom—the fruits of democratic governance—cannot be sustained or enjoyed.
What does the rise of popular online forums across Africa say about the need for freedom of expression and speech on the internet and the pros and cons of censorship?