The Global Information Society Watch 2014 Report: Communications Surveillance in the Digital Age has been lunched in The Gambia on Wednesday 31st December 2014 at the premises of The Gambia Press Union in Fajara.
The Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) annual report 2014 was commissioned by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), an international network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment, through the strategic use of information and communication technologies, including the internet.
The report, which covers 57 countries around the world From Argentina to Zimbabwe and including the United States of America and the United Kingdom, used the 13 International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance as a basis in considering state of surveillance in these countries.
“While there is a need for systems to monitor and protect the public from harm, the right to privacy, the transparency and accountability of states and businesses, and citizens oversight of surveillance system are important advocacy concerns,” says Edwin Huizing, Executive Director of Humanist Institute for Corporation with Developing Countries (Hivos) – co-publishers of the GISWatch 2014 Report.
Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director of APC, says: “As the report shows, both States and businesses are complicit in communications surveillance.”
In The Gambia, the Report examined the history of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the country and traced back elements of surveillance back to 2006, with reference to the famous hacking into a US-based online newspaper.
According to the Report, since this incident in 2006, the government has worked tirelessly to help tighten its control over the telecommunications sector as it grows. The services of experts, analysts and consultants from far and wide were contracted with a view to produce a “legal and regulatory framework” that keeps a firm grip on this emerging sector.
“The government’s efforts have since yielded dividends, and a number of policies and programmes were introduced with a view to enhance growth in the sector. The most important in our context among the “innovations of the government” was the enactment of the Information and Communications Act 2009,” it stated.
But, it added: “Advocacy efforts should be directed toward the de-legislation of the ICA Act, as well as the 2013 amendments. This should be followed by strategic planning to create a well-regulated sector. Special efforts should be directed at reviewing and amending Section 138 to bring it more closely in line with international standards for the protection of human rights. In particular, it should be made clear that interception can only be authorised by a judge for the purposes of investigating serious crimes and subject to the requirement of proportionality.”
The launch of the report was punctuated with a training seminar for Gambian journalists and bloggers on “Blogging and Online Security”.
The training, facilitated by the publishers of the group blog: Front Page International (FPI), covered safe and secure browsing, data hygiene, password protection, anonymous browsing, the use of proxies and blogging.
While the objective of the launch is to popularize the report, the training is meant to improve capacity and awareness of journalists on blogging techniques and concepts of internet security.
About FPI: Front Page International (FPI) is an independent group blog published by a group of Gambian journalists and bloggers. It covers news and opinions mainly on human rights including press freedom and freedom of expression. More info at: https://frontpageinternational.wordpress.com