Digital Shelter was among the recipients of the second round of the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF) which is an initiative meant to advance digital rights, access to information, data protection, digital security and expanding online civic space in 18 countries in Africa. The initiative is supported by the Collaboration on ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) which is one of the centers established under the Catalyzing Access to Information and Communications Technologies in Africa (CATIA) initiative, which was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). CIPESA made the annoucement on its twitter page
Being stationed in Somalia, DS puts itself in a unique strategic position as the first and the only institution advancing digital rights, promoting digital safety and internet freedom in the shrinking online civic space of Somalia where digital activists, journalists, bloggers and other online content creators are facing digital threats.
With the increasing use of internet and communication comes a great opportunity for activists, bloggers and journalists who now have a global platform to promote their causes and ideas. For instance, activists have already used the power of social media to overthrow tyrannical regimes, organized online and offline mass protests and most importantly publicized pressing human rights issues such as the plight suffering of women and girls around the world. events like Arab Spring and #FeesMustFall campaign could be referred as perfect example of how social change can be achieved with the power of social media.
However, the internet comes with its risks and poses serious threats particularly against activists and journalists as previously witnessed multiple times in Somalia. Deliberate online attacks, defamation of character and libel are often targeted against activists and journalists who are active on social media or publicizing issues related to human rights. Female activists face more serious online threats than their male counterparts, these threats are more gendered and sexualized which cause serious consequences on their lives and their families.
“Protect My Online Space”
Under this initiative, DS is planning to start series of events titled “Protect Our Online Space” in Somalia aimed at expanding the online civic space by providing capacity building to activists, medical professionals, bloggers, dissents on digital safety and online protection. The program will support the above mentioned groups with practical tools to protect themselves from the growing online threats they are facing in their line of work on a daily basis.
DS will be organizing forums and debates on the shrinking online civic spaces by engaging critical voices from the media professionals, bloggers and dissents. In these discussions, key issues will be addressed including how we can claim our online space by demanding total freedom of expression and opinion in our digital space. There has not been much debates around these areas and therefore it is the right time to look troubling trend of the state and non-state actors seeking to control, shape, and silence the digital space through propaganda and misinformation.
By the end of this project, DS expects building strong digital resilience and expanded online civic space where threats and digital attacks are no longer silencing critical voices.