By Gift Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA: The Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan has said that digital rights are human rights which are very fundamental and must be respected by the government.
Speaking at the ongoing 2018 Internet Freedom Forum in Abuja, Sesan passionately urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill that has been passed by the Senate, so as to provide a platform to engage on the issues surrounding digital rights in Nigeria.
He however said that Nigeria is somewhere in the middle in regards to digital rights, noting that things could be great one minute and wrong in the next with the arrests of bloggers and several media harassments.
According to him, “it is important to make sure that the policy environment moves from one of regression to one where the internet for Africa is actually a platform for economic activities and more; Why are we focusing on shutting down the internet and arresting political opponents when we can actually promote, using the internet for economic opportunities.
“Privacy is important, freedom of expression is important, I have the right to say the things I want to say, even if you don’t like to hear them, as long as I don’t break any laws” he remarked.
On the issue of fake news, he stated that Nigerian government does not have the moral standing to accuse any one of peddling fake news as the government is also guilty, adding however that as 2019 draws near, Paradigm Initiative will work with other agencies to help combat fake news by searching and sharing the correct information.
While attesting to the fact that security which is the government’s issue is a valid one, he said, “You don’t solve a problem by creating another problem. You don’t solve the problem of security by killing people who are protesting because in doing that, you are actually causing more harm than good.
“For Ministries, Departments and Associations, understand the issue, understand that there must be a balance between privacy and security, get more people on the table to have this conversation, let various stakeholders give their input. You don’t just slam laws down on people’s throats” Sesan advised.
In the same vein, the Founder, Africa Digital Rights’ Hub, Teki Akuetteh, who spoke with The Sight News in an interview, reiterated that digital rights issues are very important and even more important for Africa, expressing dismay that Africa is not engaging adequately in those areas.
“If we do not take care, this information era, we are going to be left behind. These are very critical tools that can also help Africa, help our economies leapfrog and advance in ways that we haven’t thought of” she stressed.
Akuetteh emphasized that shutting down the internet, trying to censor or regulate would mean to the entire would that such a country is beginning to limit access of information that may be relevant to its own people, the outside community, to their businesses and economy.
She however stressed the need to look at a more proactive way of dealing with some of these legitimate concerns on digital rights issues.