The Internet has become a pivotal communication medium across all sectors of life, business, bank, education, governance, and politics, just to name a few. This has been highlighted in 2020, as the pandemic spread. Access and the use of the internet has changed our lifestyles and the mode of governance. As the COVID-19 was causing havoc, countries across the continent adopted emergency measures.
Some simply enacted laws that trampled on freedom of expression. Others revamped existing crippling cybersecurity laws. In legal actions attempted by the government to stifle dissidents, courts evoked and abusively interpreted, and applied repressive articles to dissidents.
Journalists and media workers were, in some countries defined as part of frontlines workers, and were exempted from lockdowns protocols. While in some countries, journalists were not only denied access to information but were victims of attacks, brutalities, arrests, and detentions, for merely seeking to bring vital information to the public.
Authorities tightened control on the circulation of information online, with some passing internet-related legislation as part of their fight against fake news about the pandemic. The publication of fake news has been criminalized, thus compromising the rights to freedom of expression online, and on social media.
During the year 2020, several journalists and citizens bore the brunt of the fight against the spread of the pandemic and fake news. Many media houses and journalists felt the fury and brutalities of law enforcement agents. Across the continent, the enforcement of COVID-19 law was diversely and paradoxically applied, and this was at the expense of freedom of expression online.
The 2020 AFEX Annual Report on the State of Internet in Africa, covers 13 countries- Botswana, Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
The report gives a brief overview of the country’s democratic background and landscape, highlights internet freedom-related incidents, policies, and development that took place during the year under review. Click here to read the full report.