‘Digital rights under lockdown’: A new project for African digital spaces

Over the last nine months, the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa sparked a series of emergency response measures to curb the spread of the virus. In the process, some governments exploited the pandemic to clamp down on digital rights, which led to a COVID-19 “infodemic” of mis- and disinformation. 

Global Voices kicks off a new project focusing on governance control of COVID-19 narratives and its impact on African digital spaces during the pandemic. The project, titled, “Digital rights under lockdown: Government control of the COVID-19 narrative in Africa,” launched this month and will end in February 2021. 

Nine reporters will investigate threats to freedom of expression during COVID-19 in African digital spaces, explore how competing COVID-19 narratives flourished online and look closely at the ways in which governments seized upon the pandemic to crack down on citizens’ rights. 

The project, led by Amanda Lichtenstein, Nwachukwu Egbunike and Dercio Tsandzana, with the sub-Saharan Africa team, will work with nine journalists who will produce stories covering the following countries: Algeria, Namibia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tunisia, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. 

Original reporting will highlight digital rights violations particularly during the pandemic; potential manipulation of coronavirus narratives by African governments that impacted digital rights; and government overreach and attempts to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to enact “states of emergency” that further clamp down on digital rights. 

The nine journalists will participate in two training sessions that highlight best practices in global health reporting. Their stories will also be translated into dominant local languages and promoted over social media. 

“Digital rights under lockdown” is a new iteration of previous projects launched in 2019 that focuses on digital rights in Africa, such as “Writing toward freedom: Politics and digital rights in Africa,” and “The identity matrix: Platform regulation of online threats in Africa,” all funded by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).

We wish the best to the team and are eager to read the stories!

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