ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa (EA), the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) and MS Law are calling governments in Eastern Africa to account for arbitrarily restricting and threatening free speech. However, to do this effectively, we need your stories, observations and reflections. If you live in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania or Uganda and have experienced any form of censorship, intimidation, harassment or abuse online, please share this with us.
Public authorities across Eastern Africa are increasingly using criminal sanctions to regulate content online. These criminal sanctions are punitive, attracting between 1 – 20 years imprisonment for individuals who are found guilty of a variety of crimes, including defamation, publishing false or hateful statements or information, engaging in negligent acts likely to spread diseases, amongst others. While some individuals have been put behind bars for content-related offences with disproportionate penalties, many Internet and digital users typically face online and offline attacks, harassment, intimidation or detention by emboldened public officials, all of which go undocumented.
When our governments imprison us for speaking out, we become unable to access or share vital information about health, elections and protests. We self-censor. We become afraid to ask our governments to do their job. Bit by bit, we lose our freedoms.
ARTICLE 19 EA, BAKE and MS Law are working to improve protections for freedom of expression online. We are pushing back against unlawful and disproportionate government restrictions on our twin human rights to access information and to express ourselves freely and safely. We are also championing the adoption of civil, rather than criminal sanctions, to tackle problematic content online. To protect free speech and overriding public or private interests, civil sanctions are the least intrusive and effective remedy to employ.
We need your stories and testimonies about your country’s operating environment and your personal experiences to do this effectively. Your stories will strengthen our research and analysis. We will use this information to support our advocacy efforts to decriminalise free expression online, protect lawful and critical expression on social and political issues, enhance people’s ability to access and share vital information using the Internet and other digital technologies, and ensure that governments respect and protect our human rights. We can make this change happen by working with lawyers and policy makers to pressure or influence global and regional governance bodies, including at the United Nations, the African Union, and other decision makers at the highest levels.
If you’d like to share your story, please complete our survey. We won’t share what you tell us without your consent, and while we can’t promise to take up every case, your experience will help protect free expression online for everyone.