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Tag Archives: KHRC

Is Kenya Putting the Chill on Internet Freedoms?

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By Juliet Nanfuka

The rights of Kenya’s digital citizens are fast shrinking in the face of new restrictive laws and increased arraignment of individuals for expressing online opinions which authorities deem in breach of the law.

The Security Laws (Amendment) Act 2014, assented to by President Uhuru Kenyatta last December, allows blanket admissibility in court of electronic messages and digital material regardless of whether it is not in its original form.

It is feared that retrogressive provisions in this law could be used to put the chill on internet freedoms in East Africa’s most connected country where mobile phone penetration stands at 80% and internet access at 50% of the population.

Part V of the new security law regarding “special operations” has raised particular concerns, as it expands the surveillance capabilities of the Kenyan intelligence and law enforcement agencies without sufficient procedural safeguards.

It gives broad powers to the Director General of the National Intelligence Service to authorise any officer of the Service to monitor communications, “obtain any information, material, record, document or thing” and “to take all necessary action, within the law, to preserve national security.”

In addition, the amendments also contain unclear procedural safeguards especially in the interception of communications by “National Security Organs” for the purposes of detecting or disrupting acts of terrorism.

Even though there is a provision for a warrant to be issued by a court of law, the broad definition of ‘national security’ leaves no room for restrictions on the extent of power the law grants to National Intelligence Service when it comes to accessing personal data, information and communications.

In February 2015, the Kenya High Court struck some clauses from the security law. The government says it may appeal.

Government says the new law is necessary to fight al Shabaab militants who have repeatedly rocked the country with fatal attacks such as the Westgate shopping centre attack on September 21, 2013, which left 67 people dead. Human rights activists blame President Kenyatta’s government for steadily shrinking the space for civil actors, a pattern they say was manifested in the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Act 2013 and the Media Council Act 2013. These laws, they say, placed restrictions on media freedom and general freedom of expression.

The proposed Cybercrime and Computer related Crimes Bill (2014) also falls short of constitutional guarantees as it is contains “broad” speech offences with potentially chilling effects on free speech. See a full legal analysis of the Bill by Article 19. Proposed regulations to the law governing non-government organisations, which cap the funds received from foreigners at 15% of their overall budgets, have also been criticised as aimed to curtail and control the activities of civic groups engaged in governance and human rights work.

Over the 2012-2013 election period, several individuals were charged in court over their online communications. The National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008 has been used to charge many for promoting hate speech – which some Kenyan citizens found justifiable given the role that hate speech played in the 2007 to 2008 post-election violence.

Hate Speech is defined by the 2008 Act as speech that is “threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words” with the intention to stir up ethnic hatred or a likelihood that ethnic hatred will be stirred up. Authorities, however, seem to be shifting gear and using this charge among others against online journalists and bloggers that criticise the Kenyatta government.

In December 2014, blogger Robert Alai was arrested and charged with undermining the authority of a public officer contrary to Section 132 of the Penal Code by allegedly calling President Kenyatta an “adolescent president” in a blog. He was again arrested in February 2015 for offending a businessman online by linking him to a land saga that involved the illegal acquisition of the Langata Primary School playground.

Meanwhile, Allan Wadi – a student – was also arrested for “hate speech” and jailed in January 2015 for posting negative comments on Facebook about the president. In the same month, journalist Abraham Mutai was arrested following tweets he posted on corruption in the Isiolo County Government. He was charged with the “misuse of a licensed communication platform to cause anxiety.”

Nancy Mbindalah, an intern with the department of Finance at the Embu County Government, was charged on similar grounds for social media posts dating as far back as 2013 in which she is alleged to have abused County Governor Martin Wambora.

In all instances, some social media users claimed there were “selective” arrests and prosecution of those critical of government. Critics cited the case of Moses Kuria, a Member of Parliament (MP) for Gatundu South, who allegedly made remarks on Facebook against the Luo Community but did not face the same punitive actions.

A recent news report, however, indicates that the National Cohesion and Reconciliation Commission and the Public Prosecutor are calling for the MP’s case to be revisited for the “incitement to violence, hate speech and fanning ethnic hatred.”

The incidents of arrest, prosecution and law amendments demonstrate a recurring theme of clamping down on dissenting citizen voices, a concern that was highlighted by the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the International Federation for Human Rights following the enactment of the Security Laws (Amendment) Act.

While the country remains on a constant alert for terror attacks, this has been used to strengthen the control that the state has on freedom of expression and surveillance. The lack of laws that limit state access to citizens’ information further exacerbates this concern.

ICT4Democracy in East Africa: Promoting Democracy and Human Rights Through ICTs

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Established in 2011, ICT4Democracy in East Africa is a network of organisations working to promote democracy and human rights through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Across the three countries, partners are leveraging on mobile short message service (SMS), toll free call centre, FM radio, social media, crowd sourcing platforms and direct community engagement to implement projects that tackle issues such as corruption, service delivery, respect for human rights, freedom of expression and access to information.

The projects are driven by the shared vision of the immense potential that ICTs have in increasing citizens’ participation in decision-making processes and strengthening democratisation.

The partner organisations are: the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), iHub Research, Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Toro Development Network, Transparency International Uganda and Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET).

The network is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider). CIPESA is the network regional coordinator.

Read more about the network in the profile publication here.

 

African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms for Launch at 2014 IGF

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The African Declaration Drafter’s Group is pleased to present the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms which will be released on September 4 at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Istanbul, Turkey, and on September 8 at Highway Africa Conference in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Kenyan Human Rights Networks Deploy ICT Platforms in their ICT4Democracy Work

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Two Human Rights Networks (HURINETS) working with the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) to improve grass roots based organisations’ and their memberships’ understanding of the commitment to building a human rights society have deployed a crowd map, blogs and social media tools to promote their work.

Laikipia HURINET located in Laikipia in the South Rift Region of Kenya works to empower the Laikipia County Community through promotion of human rights, free information dissemination, training, and networking. The HURINET, also known as the Vision Facilitators Network (VIFANET) in June launched https://laikipiacivicaction.crowdmap.com/.

Meanwhile, Kwale HURINET is documenting its work on child rights at www.genesisforhumanrights.wordpress.com. Kwale HURINET is located in Kwale on South Coast of Kenya. Their work focuses on civic education on the implementation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 with special emphasis on the Bill of Rights, devolution, leadership and integrity among other constitutional provisions; para-legal services on child rights and labour; security, equality and justice.

Read the full report here.

This article was published on July 24, 2012, about the ICT4Democracy in East Africa project, which brings together various partners in the region – among them CIPESA.

East African Region New Media and Human Rights Institute workshop

In collaboration with the African Human Rights Consortium, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) conducted a four-day new media, research and advocacy workshop aimed at scaling-up the use of ICTs in human rights and democracy within East Africa. The workshop attracted 14 participants drawn from civil society and media in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Burundi. During the workshop, KHRC took the opportunity to share information on the activities of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa network attracting a lot of interest from participants. Emphasis was placed on the importance of involvement of civil society actors in various ICT forums and projects.

Civil society organisations in East Africa were urged to embrace ICTs in their advocacy interventions.

This article was published on July 24, 2012, about the ICT4Democracy in East Africa project, which brings together various partners in the region

Digitalizing Democracy: Initiatives in East Africa

By: Caroline Wamala

A number of organizations in east Africa are using ICT to hold leaders accountable, fight corruption, monitor service delivery, and contribute to building a democratic culture. The East Africa ICT4Democracy Network, supported by Spider, was launched in June 2011 to enable the participating organisations to have stronger impact, build a more sustainable initiative, and further enhance people’s capacity to act and participate in democratic processes.

Participating organisations are:

  • iHub, Kenya
  • Women of Uganda Network,
  • Kenya Human Rights Commission,
  • Transparency International, Uganda
  • Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance
  • Collaboration on International ICT Policy for Eastern and Southern Africa, Uganda

For further information about the projects, visit www.ict4democracy.org.

The core problem is that despite the concerted efforts by international agencies, governments and local donors, ignorance prevails about human and citizen rights among the majority of communities. This perpetuates a culture of poor or bad service delivery across all sectors.

In the developed world generally everyone is aware that water is a human right, health is a human right, in sub-Saharan Africa, or east Africa, people are unaware of these rights, clean water, or access to health is seen as a favour.”

Ashnah – CIPESA at M4D2012 New Delhi

Informing people about their rights to government services is the first step to engaging communities in holding their government accountable to better service delivery.

“So we are not just demanding accountability, we are making communities aware that you are entitled to freedom of expression, entitled to clean water, health etc. so we are engaging them, and they are participating, they are knowledgeable…we are going beyond survellieng and hold someone accountable.

Ashnah – CIPESA  at M4D2012 New Delhi

 Are ICTs the road to democracy?
 While ICT can raise awareness on good governance, spread information on human and citizen rights and help monitor service delivery, it is “merely an amplifier, that acts within the environment it is embedded in. ICT is not the panacea none of our projects think or say that technology is the answer, technology is probably solving 5% of the problem, the other 95% requires us as a people to come together. As long as the cohesion and symbiotic relationships in this network continue these projects will explode into some serious change and become sustainable, we are working together and mobile technology is creating effective change and the same model can be applied in other places, we are building something by learning from each other.

Angela and Hilda – iHub at the M4D2012 Conference in Delhi

 Caroline Wamala is Project officer at Spider and post-doc researcher at Karlstad University.

This article was published by the Swedish Programme on ICTs for Developing regions (SPIDER) on April 18, 2012, about the ICT4Democracy in East Africa project, which brings together various partners in the region – among them CIPESA – Editor