The Internet Freedom Forum 2017 (IFF 2017), hosted by Paradigm Initiative, will hold from 25th to 27th April 2017 at the Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria. The forum which has participants registered from over 30 countries will brings together stakeholders working on digital rights in Africa including the academia, civil society representatives, media, technology companies, government agencies and active citizens. At IFF 2017, participants will engage in important conversations on how to safeguard the digital rights and freedoms of citizens in Africa and beyond. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in its 32nd session in June 2016 declared that “the rights that people enjoy offline should also be protected online.” The United Nations declaration is a forceful reminder to governments, telecommunications companies, civil society and all stakeholders that human rights across digital platforms must be upheld.
According to ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, “As we spend more of our time online across digital platforms, protecting the same rights and freedoms people enjoy offline such as freedom of opinion, expression and association on online platforms becomes increasingly important; especially set against the background of recent Internet shutdowns, the arrests of ordinary citizens for expressing their right to freedom of expression online, the enacting of legislation which curtails free speech on digital platforms, and government mandated surveillance of citizens in Africa.”
There were at least 11 cases of Internet/Internet applications shutdowns in Africa in the year 2016. The Internet has been shut-down in Anglophone speaking areas of Cameroon for about 2 months. Adeboye Adegoke, Paradigm Initiative’s ICT Policy Program Manager echoing the words of David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur for the protection of freedom of expression has described the shutdown as “an appalling violation of the right to freedom of expression and a violation of international law.” IFF has been a pre-eminent forum where the most important stakeholders in digital rights converge to shape conversations and policy direction to ensure that the digital rights of citizens are upheld.
The success of previous editions notwithstanding, IFF 2017 promises to be bigger and better. According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programmes, “As we are expecting about 200 stakeholders from 35 countries, proceedings at IFF 2017 will be bilingual – in English and French. Panellists and participants have been drawn using a multi-stakeholder approach. The Keynote will be delivered by Anriette Esterhuysen, the Executive Director of Association for Progressive Communications (APC).”
We write to invite you to join other stakeholders from 35 countries including 26 African Countries; Canada, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom and the United States among others. Supporting the 2017 Internet Freedom Forum are Ford Foundation, Google, Facebook, AccessNow, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Nigeria, Mozilla Foundation, World Wide-Web Foundation and Internews. Official Media partners include TechCabal, RedMedia, ITRealms, NewsWire and TechWithCFA.