When it comes to technological developments, African region usually strikes our minds in the last. Although, during the past few years, some African countries have shown significant advancements in the tech sector, such as South Africa and Kenya. For instance, one can now even see free VPN south Africa offered by most reputed VPN services. Nonetheless, the region does not represent similar advancements on a broader level – particularly regarding internet freedom. While China and Russia have already established themselves as regions with strict policies for internet censorship, Africa has also joined the list.
Internet freedom restriction
Countries prefer to restrict internet freedom due to multiple reasons. Either the governments are afraid of fake news or uncontrolled news leaks, or they fear propaganda. Sometimes, the elites don’t want the public to become aware of situations so that they can continue to rule without hassle. The rise in the use of social media has somehow shifted the control of news dissemination from the government authorities to the public. The same happened in African countries, after which, they started attacking internet freedom.
Rules and taxes
In Uganda, the government imposed a 5 cent/day tax on social media, seemingly to prevent “gossip” – a clearly anti-democratic move. Tanzanian government imposed harsh internet rules that compelled various websites to go offline. Otherwise, they would have to pay hefty fines. Tanzania also praised China for their internet policies – clear evidence of the Tanzanian government’s perception towards internet freedom.
Likewise, Zimbabwe and Zambia are no exception to this menace. In Zambia, WhatsApp and Facebook group owners have to register themselves with the government. Moreover, they are also threatened to face punishments if they are found spreading or promoting “false” information.
Zimbabwe has set up a dedicated ministry for cybersecurity, threat detection, and mitigation, which is responsible to eliminate unlawful or abusive activities in cyberspace. However, this also seems an anti-democratic move targeting freedom of speech. Similarly, the sub-Saharan African areas also suffer restrictions on internet freedom. The authorities exploit the internet for surveillance on citizens and censorship, particularly targeting the journalists, opposition leaders, and civic activists.
Ethiopia also had strict internet censorship policies for quite a long time. However, the new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made several reforms to restore internet freedom. His move also included unblocking of several blocked websites. While things may seem improving in Ethiopia with regards to internet freedom, the other African regions still need to pay attention to freedom of speech and to abandon their anti-democratic moves.