News: Tweets Can Get You Arrested As Some African Countries Try To Control The Internet
While the Internet is gaining penetration on the African continent, more and more African governments are trying to control usage of the internet.
Not only are some governments censoring what can be said online, some are actually shutting off the internet when it suits them politically.
In Tanzania, if the government doesn’t like what you post you can be arrested.
Diamond Platnumz, a Swahili rapper known for such ditties as “Bum Bum”, was arrested on April 16 after posting a clip of himself kissing a woman, The Economist reported. Tanzania’s information minister, Harrison Mwakyembe, felt that the rapper’s photo was an act of indecency and thus he could be arrested under a new law intended to regulate social media.
“Tanzania’s vaguely worded law, which came into effect last month, seems to require almost anyone who publishes content online in the country to buy a license for 2.1m Tanzanian shillings (around $900). The government says its aim is to fight ‘immorality’ and hate speech,” The Economist reported.
Under the new law, any online content “that causes annoyance, threatens harm or evil, encourages or incites crime, or leads to public disorder” can lead to a poster’s license being revoked or a fine. A similar 2015 law, supposedly passed to prevent cyber-crime, has gotten internet users in trouble for insulting the president in WhatsApp groups.
Other countries are cracking down as well. In Uganda, the government has proposed a daily charge for social-media use on mobile phones of 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05). The government is doing this, according to President Yoweri Museveni (who himself likes to tweet), to stop excessive “gossiping.”
And in Kenya, which has been praised for having more freedom of speech than other African nations, Internet restrictions were placed during the most recent election. In January, prominent Kenyan blogger Cyprian Nyakundi was arrested for allegedly defaming the interior minister, The Economist reported.
Not only are some African countries arresting internet users, but they are controlling when people can use the Internet.
“Throughout the year, numerous African governments intentionally disrupted internet or electronic communication, exerting control over the flow of information and impinging on freedom of expression. These interruptions took place during critical electioneering periods as in Gabon; at protests advocating for social justice and democratic transitions in Ethiopia; or, in the case of Algeria, to stop students from cheating in exams” Quartz reported.
In 2016 there were shutdowns in at least 11 African countries, according to Access Now, an international human rights, public policy and advocacy group dedicated to an open and free internet.
Even in democratic countries like Ghana, the police chief called for the shutting down the internet during the general elections. The move was sharply criticized and didn’t take effect when Ghana held successful and peaceful elections in December, Quartz reported.