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 Russia's Expat Community Shrinking

    Russia's troubled economy, tensions with West have led hundreds of thousands of foreigners to leave for better opportunities

    Accelerating the Push Against Islamic State: What Will Work?

    Experts stress need to step up military action, address root causes of Muslims' disaffection, counter IS social media messages in a massive way

    Experts: N. Korean Abductions Sought to Halt Brain Drain

    Pyongyang abducted about 3,800 South Koreans and more than a dozen Japanese nationals in late 1970s

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.