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#SexForGrades, LGBTQI+ attacks and celebrating Africa for ATI Day (Demo)

Access to Information!

It was a momentous occasion for freedom of expression and access to information advocates from around the world when, on 14 October, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution to proclaim 28 September as the International Day for Universal Access to Information.

For Africa, it is a particularly special celebration. The proclamation comes on the back of a decade of advocacy and lobbying by the working group on the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI), following a decision made at a continental conference on access to information marking the 20thanniversary of the Windhoek Declaration.

Edetaean Ojo , Executive director of IFEX member organisation Media Rights Agenda, describes the journey which saw the formation of strong partnerships during years of lobbying and advocacy.

Tanzania unconcerned by world spotlight on repression

The Tanzanian government remains unperturbed by the focus on its growingly repressive environment and continues on a downward spiral of repression.

The Cybercrimes Act – a prevalently restrictive law that has been duplicated by other countries on the continent – was used to arrest and detain popular comedian Idris Sultan. If found guilty of “using a computer system for impersonating someone else” after face-swapping photos of himself and President John Magufuli, he could face up to 7 years in prison.

His brief detention came on the heels of separate reports on the country released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International on 28 October which reflect environmental characteristics of intimidation, threats, arbitrary arrests and repressive legislation aimed at silencing critics.

The report by HRW highlighted the legal challenge brought against the State by Bob Chacha Wangwe. Arrested in 2016 for his Facebook commentary on unfair elections in Zanzibar, Wangwe decided to appeal his ruling at the High Court, despite his family’s strong reservations. In March this year, Wangwe won his appeal.

Reference was also made to the continued detention of journalist Erick Kabendera at maximum-security Segerea prison, despite his lawyer’s plea for a legal pardon.

Attacks on LGBTQIA+ community in Uganda on the rise

Attacks on members of the LGBTQI+ community in Uganda escalated during October, following a report that authorities were planning to reintroduce a law that could result in the death penalty for anyone found guilty of homosexuality.

In just under a week, 16 LGBTQI+ activists were taken into police custody after a mob shouting homophobic slogans surrounded their office, a gay Rwandan refugee was beaten outside his office in Kampala, and two transgender women were beaten after leaving a nightclub. Amidst the rising tensions, Ugandan LGBTQIA+ activist Brian Wasswa died after he was attacked at home.

Institutionalized sexual harassment exposed

The year-long #SexForGrades undercover investigation by BBC Africa Eye – on sexual harassment at universities in Nigeria and Ghana – went viral early this month, sparking a range of reactions.

The investigation revealed that institutionalised sexual abuse had been going on for years. Inspired by her own experience, Kiki Mordi, the journalist at the heart of the expose, spoke of her shock and joy at the intense reaction following the launch of the documentary.

Addressing the audience at the launch of the documentary through her representative, lawyer Aisha Remi, Nigeria’s First Lady Aisha Buhari said: “it is no longer enough to sweep allegations under the carpet or force victims to withdraw their allegations, victimise or stigmatise them. The Nigerian Senate ’s prompt response was to reintroduce a sexual harassment bill looking to thwart sexual harassment with a specific clause targeted at lecturers in tertiary institutions.

Data analytics organisation The Future of Work Africa followed the tweets and conducted a “sentiment analysis” of #SexForGrades.”

Ethiopian Nobel

There were mixed reactions to the announcement of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as the recipient of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee lauded his “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea. Law lecturer at Keele University Awol K. Allo nominated Prime Minister Ahmid for “capturing the imagination of his own people and people across the African continent as an embodiment of hope…”  While recognising his role as a reformer, Ludger Schadomsky, the head of DW’s Amharic desk, praised his role as a reformer, but felt the award could actually “torpedo peace efforts.”

At home, his popularity is waning. Ahmid has not been able to contain what started out as protests after Jawar Mohammed, a prominent activist and one-time supporter of Ahmid, accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him. The protests have now morphed into ongoing deadly ethnic conflicts which, at the time of writing, had claimed 78 lives.

In brief

A report by The New York Times reveals a campaign by Russia to test new disinformation tactics on Facebook that specifically target African countries including Mozambique, Cameroon, Sudan, and Libya. The increasing weaponisation of social media platforms like Facebook is aimed at spreading disinformation and manipulating elections.

Emojis created by 21-year-old O’ Plerout Grebot from the Ivory Coast have taken the continent by storm. The more than 350 Zouzoukwa African emojis reflect features and articles that West Africans in particular are able to relate to.

Cameroon journalist Amindeh Blaise Atabong and East Africa-based foreign correspondent Amanda Sperber are two of three recipients of the Kurt Schork Awards for 2019. Atabong was commended for his bravery in documenting the often violent conflict between Anglophone and Francophone divisions “playing out everywhere from Cameroon’s orphanages to its wildlife reserves”.  Sperber was praised for her years of reporting on the difficult and dangerous conditions of Somalian politics and armed conflict.

Also in Cameroon, during the first week of October President Paul Biya ordered the release of opposition leader Maurice Kamto.

The continued detention of Nigerian pro-democracy activist, Omoyele Sowore was tabled at the 65th session of the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Right meeting in Banjul this month by the Institute for Human Rights and Developments in Africa.

Also in Nigeria, research carried out by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) highlights Nigerian state authorities’ growing tendency to seize electronic equipment during raids on media outlets and using forensic technology to search journalists’ devices for contacts or other work related information.

The post #SexForGrades, LGBTQI+ attacks and celebrating Africa for ATI Day appeared first on IFEX.


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