National security at the expense of human rights
With governments adamant that their policies curbing the abuse of social media is justified by the need to protect human rights, Richard Mulonga noted that human rights become compromised in the process.
“Does it mean it is social media abuse when I say something you don’t like or when I demand for transparency and accountability? Holding power to account?” he said, adding how there was contestation about what should be prioritised in this dilemma, national security or human rights.
He stated how it was disappointing to note that even though national security was not defined, it is used as and when it suits the state.
“The law provides for search and seizure, meaning a police officer or any law enforcement agent may search and seize your equipment (computer, cellphone, iPad, tablets, notebooks etc) without a court order.”
He called for internet governance (IG), which is the process of how the internet is governed to guarantee citizens’ digital rights; “IG entails participation from all stakeholders- government, media, bloggers, CSO, regulators, law enforcement, private sector and citizens.”
He called for digital rights, which he said are critical human rights, to be respected both online and offline. “All laws and restrictions that are necessary to govern the internet must be in true public interest, according to international norms and standards and they must involve all stakeholders.”
As conclusion, he called for all to remember that internet rights collate with human rights, hence there should be freedom of speech online and offline; “The internet is the only free, open, inclusive and available space for citizen engagement.”
He stated how more citizens use the internet to participate on governance and to demand for transparency and accountability from duty bearers
“Freedom of expression entails that an individual has the right to express any view that he or she wishes, for as long as citizens are not violating each other’s rights,” adding, he said freedom of speech was the basis upon which citizens are free to scrutinise the actions of leaders whom they have democratically elected as there is a correlation between freedom of expression and the democracy.