News / Africa

    Report: Freedom Restrictions Harm Development

    Andrew Owoyemi  buys a telephone hand-set at the computer village in Lagos, Nigeria, March 2006.
    Andrew Owoyemi buys a telephone hand-set at the computer village in Lagos, Nigeria, March 2006.
    Anita Powell
    Restrictions on the freedoms of civil society groups are hindering development around the world, says South Africa-based CIVICUS, a group dedicated to strengthening citizen action. In a report issued Monday, the international advocacy group said those restrictions include limited access to information, lower tolerance of protests and even systematic targeting of rights campaigners.

    In recent years, a new front has opened in the global struggle for freedom of expression: the Internet.

    The power of the Internet was evident in the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings that saw the overthrow of the entrenched leadership in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

    But, advocates say, more and more governments have tightened their grip on the Internet, one of many restrictions CIVICUS documented in this year’s report.

    The report released Monday found that about one-third of Internet users around the world experience some level of government restriction.  That includes users in advanced nations like China.

    The CIVICUS also noted that old-fashioned repressive tactics still exist.  In the last year, the group documented the killing of 75 trade unionists around the world, some 800 documented attacks on writers, arrests of government critics, and regressive laws limiting activists’ work.

    Development

    The South Africa-based group advocates for citizen participation around the world.  Secretary General Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah said that without free participation from all sectors of society, development is not possible.

    “I think what our report shows is the freedom from want is not achievable unless you have the freedom from fear.  That you can’t have economic freedoms without the political freedoms,' Sriskandarajah said. "And civil society across the world, particularly in developing countries, plays this important function of delivering services, holding government to account, giving citizens voice. 

    "All those things that are fundamental to the development project, and often get missed out when there’s this economistic focus on dollars, and on aid.  And that’s why we’re calling in this report for an enabling environment for civil society to underpin the new set of development goals the international community is busy agreeing on,” the secretary general added.

    Internet

    In Africa, Internet restrictions seem to be less of a concern, but that’s because so few Africans have Internet access.  According to the U.N.’s telecommunications arm, Africa lags far behind the rest of the world in Internet access rates and speeds.

    But that is not for lack of desire. Last year, several African nations joined the growing group of countries where there are more mobile phone subscriptions than there are people.

    Anriette Esterhuysen, executive director of the Association for Progressive Communications, said Internet access may not be a human right in itself, but it is a part of the package.  She recommended that African nations push telecoms companies to make their rates more affordable.

    “I think what we have to acknowledge is that in today’s world, without access to the Internet, your ability to express your fundamental human rights is severely curtailed," Esterhuysen remarked. "So how in today’s world can you actually enjoy the right to free speech without access to the Internet?  The way we look at it is it’s an enabler, and therefore the obligation of states to ensure that there is affordable and free - if you’re poor - access, becomes as important as the obligation to uphold other human rights.”

    But Esterhuysen added that with the rise of Internet recruitment by extremist groups, governments should have a right to monitor Internet activity -- as long as they observe their own laws and due process.

    “Civil society organizations need to take the issue of security on board.  We also cannot dismiss it as just governments being nasty and trying to silence critical voices," she noted. "There are real security issues, and there is a need for any state that is trying to protect its citizens or in the course of law enforcement, to monitor what people do on the Internet.”

    Activists say it comes down to the age-old balance between freedom and responsibility.  When both governments and their citizens respect both ideals, both win.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora