The Digital Rights and Information Partnership (DRIP), a consortium of organisations, has urged the Federal Government to uphold the digital rights in the 2023 general elections.
The organisation made the call in a statement in Abuja, signed by Edozie Chukwuma and Khadija El-Usman on behalf of Digital Rights and Information Partnership (DRIP) and Paradigm Initiative.
They noted that Nigeria currently has over 109m internet users, pegging the country among the top six highest internet users in the world.
They, therefore, called for the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (DRFB), which they said is a proposed legislation that seeks to protect digital rights, including the right to online privacy, freedom of expression, information, the right to peaceful assembly online, and the right to create public knowledge.
They noted that the rise of internet usage in Nigeria had increased online civic space engagement, advocacy and mobilization, explaining that it had also increased reliance on digital journalism, democratizing the flow of information traditionally controlled by newspapers, magazines, radio, and television companies.
They, however, lamented that the use of the internet comes with unique challenges and emerging issues and that some of these include citizens’ data protection, freedom of expression online, internet governance, regulation, shutdowns, online privacy and surveillance.
They said, “The DRFB is important because it tackles issues such as censorship, the prohibition of hate speech and content blocking. It was passed at the National Assembly in 2019, but not signed into law by the President. The President’s assent was declined on the basis that the bill covers technical subjects that other policies seek to address.
“Nigeria is currently a signatory to the United Nations (UN) resolution, instituted in 2016 which affirms that civil, political, economic, and social rights offline must also be protected online. This means the Nigerian government has officially acknowledged that digital rights are enshrined in human rights.
“With Nigeria’s 2023 election in view, it is the most opportune time for Nigeria to live up to its commitment of upholding digital rights by safeguarding the right to freedom of expression, association, and sharing information online. We are calling on the policymakers to support the representation and passage of the bill.
“Some common challenges faced are data protection issues, freedom of expression online, internet governance, regulation, shutdowns, online privacy, and surveillance. Nigerians deserve protection against unlawful shutdowns as in the case of twitter ban in 2021. Voters should be given an enabling environment to vote and publicly express their opinion online to prohibit all forms of media censorship or internet shutdown during the 2023 elections.”