Human Rights and Information in Africa: A reflection on trends

One in three people on the planet is an Internet user. It has emerged as a new lived space and reality for citizens, and thus also a new space in which human rights has to be considered. In the early days of the Internet, many hoped it would be an almost regulation-free utopia. The reality of the modern world however is that regulation is inevitable. The question then becomes: are the trends in regulation advancing human rights, or negating them on the African continent?

The ‘Internet’ is often treated as an alien space for human rights concerns, which is why the debate is often limited to the right of access. Practically, however, the existing human rights framework is fully capable of dealing with the dilemmas that may apply online. Frank La Rue stated in his seminal commentary: …the framework of international human rights law remains relevant today and equally applicable to new communication technologies such as the Internet.

He also noted that the value of the Internet extended beyond just access to broadband, but also to the preservation of the Internet as a space for the creation and dissemination of content as well. The issue of content itself being worthy of human rights protection (and consideration) is important, for when people speak of a ‘right to the Internet’, they do so without expanding to a variety of impacts of innate concern to human rights activists, such as the preservation of the Internet as jurisdiction for enabling freedom of expression, or preserving privacy.



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