Freedom of expression online

Freedom of expression online

Free expression online refers to your right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas online, without fear or restriction from surveillance, censorship or laws silencing dissent.

MISA Tanzania works with partners in the region and across Tanzania to raise awareness about the need for the right to free expression to be recognised both online and offline. We strive to make the internet accessible, affordable and available to southern Africans and to help make it a safe platform for diverse views and free expression, where human rights are respected just as they should be in the offline media environment.

Internet rights and freedoms

The internet and digital tools and platforms make it possible for anyone to instantly publish ideas, information and opinions to mass audiences, blurring the lines between citizens and journalists in the digital age.

There are several aspects to the topic of digital rights and freedom on expression online, including:

  • Protection of both professional journalists and anyone expressing their views online against both online and offline attacks.
  • Ensuring all citizens have access to the internet and information communication technologies that can improve access to information and facilitate their right to freedom of expression.
  • Maintaining professional standards of journalism in the online environment and discussing if and how such standards should be applied to ‘citizen journalists’ and commentators.

Internet rights and freedoms in Africa

Across the continent, activists, civil society, media and private citizens are asking how the internet environment can be cultivated to best meet Africa’s social and economic development needs and goals and MISA is collaborating with other concerned civil society organisations to draft the African Declaration for Internet Rights and Freedoms. The declaration will define principles, which will serve as the basis for the Internet in Africa.

The Declaration builds on well-established African human rights documents including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of 1981, the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press of 1991, the African Charter on Broadcasting of 2001, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa of 2002, and the African Platform on Access to Information Declaration of 2011.

Protecting yourself online

As people turn to digital environments as a way of expressing views they may not feel safe expressing through other channels, more and more governments are using legislation, including privacy and national security laws, to gain control over digital spaces and infrastructure.

Rights such as privacy have not yet been entrenched in the minds and actions of many citizens and yet citizens across the continent are using various technological services (email, social networking, banking etc.) every day, without adequate safeguards.

Some of the risk factors MISA Tanzania wants to address include:

  • Lack of knowledge by users about how their privacy may be breached;
  • Lack of understanding by users about the resources and tools that are available to help them protect themselves online; and
  • The convenience of online services can mean issues of privacy are not considered very important.

MISA Tanzania is collaborating with partners through the Coalition of Right to Information (CoRI) to campaign for freedom of expression online. Through this partnership we work together to:

  • Analyse the Cybercrime Act of 2015 to identify challenges it poses to free expression online.
  • Analyse and share stakeholders’ opinions and suggestions to the 2017 online content regulations
  • Understand the privacy discourse and identify challenges faced in advancing the right to privacy across the country;
  • Find opportunities to collaborate on research and advocacy initiatives; and
  • Share experiences and best practices on research, dissemination and advocacy strategies to influence policy change.