Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Africa , Media

Blocking blogs & monitoring mobiles –

RSF reports that the Ethiopian government continues to block sites. Three sites, Ethiomedia, Free Our Leaders and Nazret.com are all inaccessible from within Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is not the only country trying to prevent African citizens an online presence. RSF reports that the Gambian government has hacked into the website of exiled Gambian journalist, Pa Nderry Mbai, who runs the Freedom Newspaper and posted

a false statement of allegiance to an associate of the president together with the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all its subscribers, describing them as “informers.”

The false statement was made worse by the exposure of people’s names and email addresses who had set up user accounts on the site. Mbai’s email and phone number in the US were also published. Those living in Gambia are now at personal risk of arrest and detention by the Gambian government.

The same day, the Gambian police ordered all those “who continually supplied him with information which he used to castigate and vilify the democratically elected government of His Excellency President Alhaji Yahya Jammeh” to report to the nearest police station within 24 hours or face immediate arrest.

The hacking was done from an IP address in Southampton, England.

The implications for activists and dissidents in Africa are obvious. How safe is your personal information? How safe are you? This is especially worrying for those blogging from Ethiopia, Tunisia and Egypt – governments which have arrested and detained bloggers and journalists in recent months.

In another report, South Africa is proposing legislation which will require mobile phone providers to monitor and intercept phone calls.

The proposed law requires operators Vodacom, MTN and CellC to put in place systems for the interception of cellphone communications, and to keep detailed information of all their clients, as well as phones and SIM cards.

The providers such as Vodocom are angry at the legislation which will increase their administration costs on a scheme they say is unworkable. They will face huge fines for not complying with the proposed legislation – the “Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communications Related Information Bill” and of course they will loose millions in revenue as their customer base is reduced by as much as 20 million people.

However from a user perspective the Bill has implications for both privacy and access or use of mobile phones. As always it is the poor that will mostly be affected by this legislation. If you dont have an address, do not work in the formal economy or are an illegal immigrant then under the Bills regulations you will no longer be able to use a mobile phone. The second hand sale of SIM cards which again is used by mostly poor and rural people will be criminalised as failure to report the sale or exchange will result in a prison sentence of up to 12 months.

The governments cites the high crime rate as the main reason behind the legislation. There is no doubt about the high level of crime in South Africa and that mobile phones are used in carrying out many crimes. However it will be the poor, the migrants, the low paid or those employed in the informal sector who will suffer most and become even more disenfranchised from society and not the criminals who as one report states can afford to buy SIM cards from a neighbouring country, use them and dispose of them with ease.

Zimbabwe is also planning similar legislation – “The Interception of Communications Bill will allow the government

to monitor the phone calls and mail of anyone suspected of threatening national security or involvement in criminal activities in the country

The Bill will include the monitoring of email and there is no doubt in my mind that the government will seek ways to block internet usage and particularly blogs from operating within the country. In truth the Bill is simply another tool for the government to continue its repression of the people of Zimbabwe and places Zimbabwean bloggers at an increased risk to their personal safety.

8 Comments

  1. uaridi

    Oh help!!! now you cannot flirt without big brother listening in.

    What causes our fearless leaders to do such stupid things? If it is not one thing it is another. BUT it will not stop us. We will fight them any way we can.

  2. The rest of the world see migration from Africa as a problem and label people “illegal immigrants”, they fail to percive the rotten rulers they fete. America may build its wall, mine its coasts and fortress Europe may do the same but for as long as people are not free, life always find a way out. Freedom is a very big word.

    Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia sits on the UK’s the Commission for Africa, http://www.commissionforafrica.org and serves as co-chairman of the Global Coalition for Africa, yet the Ethiopian government continues to block web sites. This man who heads Africa’s oldest independent country has not demonstrated that Ethiopia is genuinely committed to freedom, he has ruled one of the poorest countries in the world since 1991.

  3. Comment by post author

    Sokari

    Uaridi – Exactly – our leaders are too full of their own self-importance to realise that you cannot stop all the people speaking. Zenawi recently expelled journalist, AddisFerenj. She is now travelling through Europe speaking with parliamentarians and human rights defenders about Ethiopia’s repressive regime. Lets hope people will listen. People in the West also need to put pressure on their governments that support Zenawi et al.

  4. This is rather unfortunate.
    We need freedom!

    It’s only oppressive leaders who try to block free communication within the citizenry.

    This is really bad and must be condemned why all well-meaning individuals.

    As for SA, the solution the govt is proposing would be too expensive though I agree that all cellcos must have records of whoever owns a SIM card. The same thing has always applied to landlines; mobiles should not be different.

  5. The question to me is should we oppose such legislation when we know it evolves from an unrealistic core i.e. the desire to silence dissention. In our case, that the government is singly responsible for much of our suffering today is an open secret. There is nothing they can do to change that people will always think and say so.

    Again, this has me wondering should we even oppose such legislation when both it’s basis and objective are unobtainable?

  6. Comment by post author

    Sokari

    This is revolutionary approach to repressive legislation that seeks to undermine the core of citizens rights and it is a difficult question you raise. It depends what you mean by oppose. For example if you oppose by criticising it, taking some sort of action then possibily no – one should not oppose it. On the other hand you could oppose it by continuing to act as you have always done, by ignoring it and thereby subverting it. Therefore there are different ways to oppose such legislations – Survival is a form of resistance!

  7. ZimPundit I’m confused. Why should such legislation in Zimbabwe–or South Africa–or such activities in Ethiopia not be opposed? Sure, “silencing dissent” is an impossible objective. But so, you’d think, would be restricing freedom of expression. And, as we know from AIPAA and POSA, even threatening the illegality of something makes many Zimbabweans reluctant to act. We are easily cowed and intimidated. On the repression/resistance paradox we are still very much on the balance of repression–acts of repression make people more submissive, not more reactive. The legislation’s objective may be unobtainable, but that doesnt make the Bill any less objectionable, in my view. Can you explain why you think it shouldnt be opposed?

  8. Comment by post author

    Sokari

    I cannot speak for Zimpundit but I took his challenge on the basis that there afe different ways of opposing. Simply by ignoring a law MAY demean it. Once bloggers in Ethiopia find ways to circumvent the blockage – the blockage becomes meaningless as the governments intent is subverted. Circumventing the law is then a form of opposition – it is not passive it is an act of definance. So ignoring this legislation could be seen as an act of definance – “this is a bad law therefore I am going to ignore it and continue even if it means doing things slightly different”. On the hand MAY be this is not the best way of opposing repressive legislation? But I think it is something to think about and consider. Trojan horses!