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Legalbrief   |   your legal news hub Friday 15 November 2019

The importance of digital activism in Africa

Activists who use digital media are protected by international law and protocols that guarantee freedom of expression. There are also protections in Africa, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which provides that every individual has the right to receive information and to express and disseminate opinions within the law. The African Commission has also acknowledged the importance of freedom of expression in the digital space and nations are required by regional law to guarantee the right to freedom of information and expression on the Internet. However, in Mail & Guardian analysis, Ronald Kakungulu-Mayambala points out that these rights aren’t always protected. He cites Uganda as an example. ‘Its Constitution protects freedom of expression and the courts have expanded this to include free speech expressed via new forms of technology. Yet freedom of speech and expression is not a reality in Uganda. The government continues to use domestic laws on electronic communication to crack down on citizens, activists and politicians who criticise the president on the Internet. This is unfortunate. Digital activism in the political sphere is critical. It enables government critics and political activists to hold the government to account. This is clear from the way in which digital platforms like Facebook have been used by opposition politicians.’ Kakungulu-Mayambala notes that while courts in Kenya, Zimbabwe and elsewhere on the continent have held that criminal defamation laws are unconstitutional, in Uganda the state continues to take a hard stance.