Experts Call for Replication of Digital Rights Bill in African Countries


Emma Okonji

Digital rights experts have called for the replication of Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill by other African countries. The bill, which was recently passed by the National Assembly, was hailed by experts as a step in a good direction, adding it will strengthen digital rights on the continent.

The experts made the call at the sixth Internet Freedom Forum, an international conference organised by Paradigm Initiative, in Abuja.

Speaking at the event, Ephraim Kenyanito of Article 19 East Africa, said: “It will be great if the Nigeria President could immediately sign the bill into law. This would be seen as a challenge to other African countries. It would be great for Nigeria to set a good example in this area.”

Digital Rights Programme Manager at Paradigm Initiative, Adeboye Adegoke, said: “The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, was drafted by a coalition of civil society, private sector and government to protect the digital rights of Nigerians in the emerging digital age. The bill is great for the protecting citizens’ rights and also great for the economy as it would energise the tech industry.”
Head of Legal Affairs, Microsoft Nigeria, John Edokpolo, called on the government to enact good laws in encouraging innovation and development in the tech industry.

“If you want foreign direct investment in the technology industry, you need to have a good data privacy law, among other things. It helps when businesses can help government see the economic benefits of having positive legislation around digital rights. The job should not be left to the civil society alone,” Edokpolo said.

The forum also provided an opportunity to discuss the adversarial relationship between government and media in the digital age. Speaking at the session dedicated to the theme, Regional Director of Article 19 Eastern Africa, Henry Maina, said: “Nigeria remains one of the many African countries which still retain criminal libel laws, an unfortunate reality that simply erodes freedom.”

Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Digital Media, Tolu Ogunlesi, said: “An effective media ensures a free society and serves as a check on government. The media should, therefore, avoid engaging in only broadcasting what different actors are saying but go beyond the press statements to finding out the truth. The media must do more to combat fake news and ensure truthfulness in their reports. While I would not campaign for government regulation of media space, I would argue for the media to be more accountable and self-regulate.”

The Publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi, said the media was already accountable and it was the government that needed to improve transparency and be proactive in releasing information.