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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs