#IFF2018 (Day 2): PTCIJ launches fact-checking partnership

Panelists discussing cybercrime laws and freedom of expression
Panelists discussing cybercrime laws and freedom of expression

Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) on Tuesday commenced a partnership with the Paradigm Initiative on Dubawa, its fact-checking arm.

The process was initiated at the ongoing Internet Freedom Forum (IFF) in Abuja, which PREMIUM TIMES is a partner.

The founder of Paradigm Initiative, Gbenga Sesan, described the partnership as a means to enhance the combat against fake news towards and during the 2019 election.

He also described the Dubawa project as a proactive one that ensures fake news do not become an excuse for internet shutdown.

The IFF aims to bring to the fore global issues around internet rights especially in Africa.

PREMIUM TIMES brings you live updates of the second day of the event.

10.15 a.m- Opening Session

The second day of the Internet Freedom Forum started with a short session. Issues raised on Tuesday were reiterated and discussed further.

Other issues raised were privacy policies, cybercrime and the lack of data protection agencies in Africa.

11.30 a.m.- Tea Break

Shortly after the session, participants went on a tea break.

11.40 a.m – Breakout Sessions

After the tea break, two sessions on cybercrime laws and freedom of expression commenced. The sessions were tagged: Protecting the rights of journalists and activists online; and Advancing human rights in the era of big data technology.

11. 40 a.m. – Session on Cybercrime

Two panelists, Lucy Freeman from Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) and Olumide Babalola, a Nigerian lawyer discussed cybercrime laws and freedom of expression, as well as protecting the rights of journalists and activists online.

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Ms Freeman, on freedom of expression online, said the internet is a place where the minority feels safe to express themselves, “therefore their rights need to be protected”.

She said if the right to freedom of expression online is protected, “the rights of the minority are also being protected”.

On how journalists can defend themselves while the fight for the reform of cybercrime laws is ongoing, Mr Babalola said it is easier to fight a bill before it becomes a law.

“The Cybercrime Act has been on since 2011. There is hardly anything journalists can do, aside to stop writing,” he said

He described the law as a ready made tool to surpress anything someone “up there” finds offensive.

He concluded by saying the law is barbaric and “should not stand in the 21st century”.

12.50 p.m – Session on Positive Rights Legislation in Africa: Replicating the DRF Bill

This session was facilitated by Paradigm Initiative.

This session was aimed at discussing the importance of positive rights legislation in the development of digital rights.

Positive rights refer to rights that mandate a person to do certain things as opposed to refraining from them.

An overview of the session showed that most legislation in Africa which address the development and use of digital platforms and internet facilities are ”cautionary and restraining”.

It showed that the focus of legislation is on the possible crimes and ills arising from such interaction, and then going ahead to forbid them.

The panelists on this session include, Yasmine Bilikis, a writer from Sierra leone; John Edokpolo, a Lead Commercial Attorney at Microsoft; Nan Nwachukwu among others.

Mr Edokpolo explained that although Nigeria already has a Digital Rights and Freedom (DRF) Bill, certain factors like data privacy have not been fully addressed in the bill.

“If you want foreign direct investments in technology, you need to have a good data privacy law.

“It would help if businesses can help government see the economic benefits of having positive legislation around digital rights. The job should not be left to civil society organisations alone,” he said.

Discussions arround Nigeria setting and keeping up the pace for positive rights regulation in Africa were embarked upon the panelists

Other issues discussed include the timing in the passing of technology-related bills as new technolocal innovations keep manifesting and the government needs to follow suit on the laws that will guide the implementation of these.

Ms Bilikis addressed how enlightenment on the part of the government can enable Sierra Leone embrace putting in place a DRF Bill.

1.50 p.m. – Lunch

Participants engaged themselves in informal discussions over lunch.

Two breakout sessions were on simultaneously in two different halls.

3.00 pm – Bridging Gender Knowledge Gap in Wikipedia: Reflections from Nigeria and Egypt

This session was facilitated by Wikimedia.

The session was reportedly created due to an existing gender gap in Wikipedia and other projects in Wikimedia movement.

The session is aimed at finding solutions and bridging the gender gap.

The panel was moderated by Nnenna Nwakanma. Ana Brandusescu and Roseblossom Ozurumba constituted the panel of discussants on the topic.

Part of the solutions discussed include how the ‘Igbo Women Wiki Project’ and other ongoing projects by Wikimedia in Nigeria have worked to bridge the gap.

Discussions among participants centred on how the gap can be bridged through education; empowerment of women in ICT; how technology-based jobs are being stereotyped as men’s jobs; going beyond tradition and religion boundries and exposure to technology.

3.00 pm. – Internet shutdowns in Africa

The session was facilitated by Facebook and CIPIT

The session focused on the nature of internet disruptions in the African region and the effects these have on the economy and society .

The implications of internet shut down were also discussed.

These include:

1. Putting at risk, the means of livelihood of many for example, bloggers, online media platforms, e-commerce platforms, etc..

2. It limits the rights to freedom of expression and access to information. Access to information is also a key part of doing business.

4.15 pm

A session on ‘the Media versus the Government in the Digital Age’ was moderated by Abdi Latif Dahir, a journalist with Quartz Africa.

The panelists for this session included: Dapo Olorunyomi, Publisher PREMIUM TIMES; Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Adviser on New Media to President Muhammadu Buhari; Tolu Balogun, a broadcast journalist and Henry Maina, Regional Director Eastern Africa, ARTICLE 19.

On the relationship between the media and the government, Mr Ogulesi said it was ‘rough’ especially during the military regime in Nigeria.

Perhaps placing the relationship in a human rights framework, Mr. Olorunyomi said things ”have changed but not so much”.

The moderator asked the panelists why the government has suddenly become interested in regulating and controlling the new media.

In response to the question, Mr Ogunlesi said the government has ”always been interested in the media generally”.

“First it was traditional media. The biggest media organisations then like Daily Times and NTA were owned by the government. The government also knows the importance of the role of the media in getting in and out of the government,” he said.

He also said there are two sets of people in government: the hardliners, who want to pull the plug on the media and those who are not (non-hardliners).

He advised that the media build relationships with the non-hardliners in government.

On how social media played a role in past elections, the special adviser said Nigeria experienced ”a social media election” in 2011 through Facebook.

In 2015, he said he felt the social media platform moved from Facebook to Twitter and he said ”in 2019 we are likely to have it move to WhatsApp”.

5.00 pm– Continuation of the session on the Media versus the Government in the Digital Age.

Still on the question of why the government has suddenly become interested in regulating or controlling the new media, Tolulope Balogun said the government wants to regulate and almost control the media.

She said the reason why the social media bill was not passed was because there was continued advocacy by the media and civil society organisations among others.

Ms Balogun also described the media regulatory arm as a big issue. She said it is not balanced as there are no media persons or bodies that fully understand how the media works.

On regulations coming up around Africa, Henry Maina said a major problem governments face is lack of policy coherence.

He said “they talk about creating an information society, yet they create policies that negate it as they consider themselves instead of the entire country”.

He also added that, surveillance, which has been criticised in most of the sessions during the forum, cannot be eliminated; and that there is no need for the passing of new laws for social media regulation as laws regulating the media also apply to social media.

On social media ethics, Mr Maina said social media users lack internal ethics as basic ethics of practice have failed.

“Because they think being online has a lot of anonymity, they go out to commit crimes,” he said.

On fake news, Mr Olorunyomi said it is a problem for everybody as the legislature is trying to come up with a law on hate speech and fake news.

He also told participants about the DUBAWA initiative which enables people to fact-check information, government policies and would also work on the 2019 elections.

Mr Ogunlesi said the issue of fake news is a sensitive one as sometimes the government, aside the media most of the time, is the source of disinformation.

on how to combat fake news, he said a collaboration between the government, civil service organisation, the media and the judiciary, is what would work.

He also said his office has plans along the line of fact-checking and key-players need to get involved. He also said the media has to be responsible.

Ms Balogun also spoke on the issue of media credibility. She said it is the duty of the media to educate the public on what fake news is since the more educated the people are, the better they can identify fake news.

Other issues addressed by the panelists are beneficial ownership of media houses and the competition between media houses to break news.

6.20 pm– Closing remarks by Tolu Balogun from Paradigm Initiative

Ms Balogun thanked participants for their attending and participation. She also urged participants to come early for the final day of the forum on Thursday.

She said day three would commence with a tea break by 9.00 am.

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