Accra hosts international forum on Internet freedom

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe & Gertrude Gyabea Yeboah
Braimah Suleimana, Executive Director, Media Foundation for West Africa
Braimah Suleimana, Executive Director, Media Foundation for West Africa

The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Mr Sulemana Braimah, has called on African countries to put in place robust Internet infrastructure to promote democratic governance.

He said improved Internet penetration would help empower citizens of developing countries to demand accountability from duty bearers.

Speaking at the opening session of an international forum dubbed: “Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFA)” held in Accra yesterday, he said when citizens gained access to the Internet and other digital platforms, they could actively participate in the affairs of the state.

Participants

The forum drew more than 500 participants from across Africa and other parts of the world, including journalists, citizen journalists, bloggers, social actors, as well as development agents.


It served as a platform to discuss the way forward to increasing Internet penetration in African countries to ensure that the masses got access to digital tools to participate in democratic governance processes.

It also discussed how citizens could leverage on the power of social media to resist oppressive and undemocratic tendencies among duty bearers.

Mr Braimah observed that the time had come for all stakeholders to come together and advocate a free Internet ecosystem that would not be manipulated by the powerful classes.

“There are instances in some African countries when leaders have shut down the Internet system and even beaten up journalists, bloggers and citizen journalists who try to hold the government accountable. We should be able to get to the point where citizens can use these tools in the wake of repressive and unfriendly policies and laws,” he stressed.

Internet freedom

The Director of Kenya’s Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Mr Charles Onyango-Obbo, who also addressed the forum, said access to good Internet infrastructure was a major step towards fighting against bad governance in African countries.

“Some leaders arrest political opponents, maltreat journalists and perpetrate arbitrariness, but we can fight these when we have good Internet penetration,” he said.

He observed that the FIFA initiative was particularly timely, especially when some leaders in Africa were devising innovative means to monitor the communication of citizens to prevent social mobilisation to oppose them.

Assurance

A Deputy Minister of Communications, Mr George Andah, said for its part, the government was committed to putting in place the right infrastructure to boost access to the Internet across the country.

He said a number of initiatives and projects had been undertaken to ensure that all parts of the country had access to the Internet, since that would lead to the development of critical sectors of the economy.

Mr Andah said the right mechanisms and capacity-building initiatives were also being rolled out to guarantee security on the Internet.