Digital rights…still an alien concept for many around us to be honest even with the growing popular use of digital platforms. For some, it still means rights that are exclusive to digital platforms. Just the other day, I had to explain to one of my participants in a Digital Skills Masterclass that digital rights were infact human rights; from freedom of association to expression, to access to information and as currently observed through the digital economy trends, economic and social freedoms.
I proceeded to explain that one can no longer isolate what happens online to the offline and vice versa particularly now when both worlds are entwined and human welfare acknowledges mental wellness and psycho social safety on both ‘realms’.
Two-three years ago, digital rights as an agenda and movement in Tanzania focused heavily on political freedoms specifically with regards to freedom of expression, media and right and access to information. Whilst harassment and abuse did exist, it seemed the major violations were more on restrictions on the above through internet shutdowns and criminalities around speech acts. We saw the introduction of enforcement of laws in the Tanzanian space that were not only used to limit access to information, but punished the vocal ones who tried to speak up..remember this ….“The Citizen, COVID-19: Media fined for broadcasting against Tanzania’s stance, 2020”
When scrambling to pen my thoughts on the current situation, I found it interesting that when searching for any articles on the state of digital rights in Tanzania, the last one to be published was sometime early 2021.
I still can’t believe as a country we experienced an internet shutdown during the 2020 elections, still so surreal. The experience was relieved a few days ago this June 2022 when many of us experienced blackout internet service but this time allegedly not politically motivated rather a technical default in some sea cable that also saw blackouts in other countries as well.
And so one might beg to question, are the dark days over? Is it really the dawn of a new era in Tanzania when it comes to human rights/digital rights? Can we now safely say we enjoy all these freedoms with no limitation and the laws are in fact there to amplify our rights and not suppress them?