right to access internet

The right to access the internet

Access to the internet is a human right.

We have previously discussed the freedom of opinion and expression as provided for under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The above right is replicated in all Constitutions of East African Countries.

An amendment was made mid last year 2016 to provide for a resultant right from the above article 19 is provided for under section 32 of the UDHR and expands the right to include “The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet”

The amendment was out rightly opposed by Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, India and South Africa on ground that the language used to make the amendment condemned any measures to disrupt internet access.

The right to enjoy human rights on the internet is very relevant in this age where governments often shut down the internet to suppress dissenting voices and to limit communication of the people within and outside the boarders of the country. In Uganda, for example, the internet was shut down during the presidential elections in 2016.Kenya is headed for a general election come August 2017, one can only hope that the powers that be will not shut down the internet. In Syria, there is no internet. It was shut down following the political unrest in the country.

Internet shut downs must be renounced and governments must be put on notice that citizens will not accept an internet shut down.

But why is access to the internet important?

An open internet is important to help in the achievement of the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) all over the world.  Though the SDGs are non-binding, they were adopted by all the 193 members of the UN as part of their commitment to improve the 17 key areas covered thereunder and the internet is the only way these members can keep in touch and gauge each other’s progress.

The right to access internet also facilitates education and in turn fights ignorance, and increases opportunity.

More so, the right to access internet facilitates the enjoyment of other human rights and freedoms such as the freedom of expression, of access to information and of a free media.

It is therefore the duty of every government to ensure that her citizens have access to the internet. Where governments shut down the internet, it must be condemned in the strongest terms because that is something which has no place in the democratic world.

Surf the internet today, and enjoy the advantages that come with it!

BY SAMALI BITALA

This article appears in our digital law newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 6, Issue 5 of June 30th, 2017

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