December 14 2023 GM

From TCU Wiki
Glitter Meetups

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EST / 2pm UTC. It is a text-based chat where digital rights defenders can share regional and projects updates, expertise, ask questions, and connect with others from all over the world! Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.

  • Date: Thursday, December 14
  • Time: 9am EST / 2pm UTC
  • Who: Blaise Ndola, Thalia, Gabriel and Brahem
  • Moderator: Mardiya
  • Where: On TCU Mattermost "IF Square" Channel.

Advancing Digital Rights in Franco-phone Communities, Africa and MENA

At this Glitter Meetup we will talk about the digital rights landscape in the Francophone region, challenges they face, and opportunities for growth and advancement. The conversation will focus on issues to do with censorship, circumvention and other emerging issues such as policy and civic tech. The Glitter Meetup will also talk about ways we can support, and grow digital rights talents in francophone and other locations with major gaps.


How would you describe the digital rights landscape of in your regions, that is for those present the francophone space you work in?
  • Thalia says "I would say Francophone region is heterogeneous at al aspects and that's also obvious when it comes to digital rights but now in countries which enjoyed more freedom than others like France .. thinks are becoming tougher". I would say the latest attacks on Palestine can be considered as an example and the double standards .. in penalizing hate speech. but then at EU level and that also includes France more efforts are put into protecting personal data and being more severe when it comes to Fraud ... Now if i have to talk about Lebanon my home country Lebanon ... has been in the last 2 to 3 years seeing its digital freedom space but freedoms in general shrinking .. more people arrested for social media posts and i read somewhere that political parties (who are often filing lawsuits against activists) are making a great deal of money of these lawsuits
  • Another participant adds: coming from the north african region On the one hand, I think we are seeing this trend and push for digital transformation programs across many sectors including public sector. This benefits the access to internet rates and is extending to underprivileged areas. But on the other hand, we also continue to face a rush to monitor, censor and even cut off the internet for disproportionate reasons from elections to protests and even exams
  • Other participant comments: Human rights, especially for the digital side is a bit worrying for many reasons... cendorship/ growing surveillance risks/ cyber security convention still unsigned or ratified by some countries...
  • A member of the community adds: I would say that this map says it all. Freedom house publishes every year its so called report "freedom of the net" but as you see, there are very few francophone countries that are being covered by the report - which is a shame cause there have been multiple internet shutdowns and other digital rights abuses in francophone countries in the last years. So the rationale behind the report was "if they don't do it, then we'll do it" in order to "jeter un pavé dans la marre". So we're trying to figure out what to do next but AFD is a big institution, it takes to get things moving.
Which countries did your report of this image cover to plug the gaps in the freedom house report and what were some of the insights?
  • 26 countries : Algérie, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroun, Comores, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinée, Guinée Equatoriale, Madagascar, Mali, Maroc, Maurice, Mauritanie, Niger, Centrafrique, RDC, Congo Brazza, Rwanda, Sénégal, Tchad, Togo and Tunisie.
  • Since many countries have been covered, we did not have the time and the ressources to deep dive into it. But we have identified multiple issues: internet shutdowns, many "desinformation laws" that are used to promote censorship online. Language is an issue as well, numerous fellowships or other digital rights opportunities are advertised in english, not in French.
  • Lots of digital rights organisations (such as CIPESA) are regional and anglophone. We wish there would be more space for francophone roundtables for example at regional events such as FIFAfrica.
  • Thalia adds: agree language is a big issue. I think there's also no major champion for digital rights in francophone region .. (in terms of organisations not individuals) which can attract funds and convene people .. at least i'm not aware of. And communications for instance the Lebanon and Syria barely communicate with African francophone countries ...though language should not be an issue. We need more channels of communication
A couple of weeks ago this example of shutdowns during exams came up, would you like to share more on it, why you believe it happens from your experience? And how do they often relate to cases that happen during the elections and protests? Are they linked?
  • So for the exams period this became more of an automatic measure to said "prevent cheating" and honestly it's a lazy "solution", we see it Algeria and Mauritania for instance.
  • Felicia from access now goes in details on each reasoning in this course if anyone is interested to know the history
What is the cyber security convention and why is it important for countries to ratify it for their context?
  • This convention commonly called convention de malabo is a framework supposed to adress personal data protection and cybercrime, I can say that its a kind of the EU GDPR Ratifying the convention can a first good step in framing and ensuring countries security, also having a common can help prevent many abuses as Data cost a lot in countries integrity (Economy/national security...
Why do you think that francophone regions as folks explained, goes under reported or paid attention to in digital rights work? And how can we try to be more inclusive and change such realities?
  • Tough question probably because of its heterogeneity. So there's not one cause and for instance North Africa goes under MENA ... same as other countries
  • Digital rights abuses are growing in the region but the proportion between campaigns/ initiatives to counter or prevent them is large.
  • One example is that francophone countries don't really appear in the (freedom net report).