By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja
CIVIL Society Organizations, CSOs, have said that the passage of the much delayed Data Protection Bill, would help mitigate issues on data leakage, and ensure confidentiality and privacy of data.
This was as they said the data protection bill, if passed would ensure: online privacy, anonymity, freedom of expression and opinion online, freedom of information online, among others.
They also said that ahead of the 2023 general elections, there is a need to uphold digital rights by safeguarding the rights to freedom of expression, association online, and sharing information online and privacy of Nigerians.
This call was made by Paradigm Initiative, PIN, BudgIT Foundation, and Enough is Enough, EiE, made this call at the fifth edition of the bi-annual pan-African new media, citizens, and governance conference, NMCG, on Thursday, in Abuja.
Speaking with journalists on the sideline of the event, the Programme Manager, Paradigm Initiative, Inhueze Nwobilor, argued that even though the evolution of social media has facilitated easy dissemination of information, the Federal Government on her part has taken decisions which, over the years, has stifled free expression.
He said: “With the turn of the century and the coming of social media, there are other platforms now that have given citizens the opportunity to go beyond the censorship that comes with what we usually call traditional media to pass information to reach their audience.
“But, because you have an account on Facebook, and you have 100,000 people following you, it is a platform that can help you start a change. But, that freedom which we have seen brings a whole lot of changes. We have seen it start movements. Almost everywhere in the world. Atleast, currently, in the recent past in Egypt and Indonesia, it was the use of social media that started the movement that even led to the change of government in Egypt.
“So, and when you come to Nigeria, you’ll find out that the Endsars that happened in 2020 was also social media that drove it. And, with all this opening of what we’re calling digital spaces when it comes to the media and to the new media. We’ve seen that the government is also bringing actions or things that are making these spaces to be closed down through censorship, through trying to over regulate because we are not against regulating what happens on social media because we are not against regulating social media. But, when the regulation becomes excessive, you find out that it comes to stiffening people’s voices.
He, however, called on the government to “pass the data protection bill. Because one of the greatest challenges we are facing today, is that if your privacy is breached, we don’t have the laws.
“Even when you catch those that breached that privacy, we don’t have enabling laws to prosecute them. So, what we are talking about is to put the Lego framework on ground that can hold every player in the area of data and security of data accountable. So, one way we can do that is to get the government, the legislature and everyone involved in that deal to pass the data privacy bill.”
On his part, the Assistant Manager for International Growth, Budgit Foundation, Iyanuoluwa Bolarinwa, bemoaned the response of the government to freedom of expression, adding that the government must take measures geared towards protecting the rights of her citizens.
“The government has been trying to protect itself from the people that it represents. So, it gives you a vision of are we in an authoritarian situation? or are we in a democratic situation? And, I think that’s the question everybody needs to answer and to also see how much access that we can have to the government”, he said.