CHRDI strongly condemns the move to monitor and possibly block access and usage of social media and considers the order as unjustifiable, unlawful and inexcusable.
We call upon the government to recognise that the 1991 constitution makes parliament the sole law making body in the country and that no law exists in our law books that regulates the use of social media.
Therefore the issue of an executive order on the use of social media by an ordinary appointed Ministry official without the consent of parliament is unlawful and in excess of the powers given to the Executive in the 1991 constitution.
We also wish to remind the Sierra Leone Communications Commission of its mandate to provide an enabling environment for access to the Internet and not work in the contrary.
We believe that the attempt to order mobile networks to block social media when there are no justifiable circumstances that warrant it is aimed at curtailing Internet freedoms.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights clearly 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 should be read in line with the 1991 constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone under Chapter 3 section 25 that provide Protection of Freedom of Expression and the Press, (section 25-1): (1)” Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, and for the purpose of this section the said freedom includes the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, freedom from interference with his correspondence, freedom to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions, and academic freedom in institutions of learning”.
This Political interference in the use of the Internet is unjustified and an unlawful. Any behaviour seeking to control the use of the Internet now will have terrifying effects on how citizens use the internet and exercise their online freedoms in future.
Any action intended to protect national security has got to be justified without necessarily using national security as a conduit to undermine the enjoyment of online rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.
The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution affirms that internet freedom is a basic human right and that people have the right to freedom of expression on the internet.
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world and falls within the category of countries who still need to do more to create access to the internet for a huge chunk of its citizens through the establishment of the necessary infrastructure and online security.
In pursuance of our avowed goals of ensuring that Human Rights are not unduly violated, Campaign for Human Rights and Development International wishes to make the following specific recommendations;
1. Refrain from impeding the rights of citizens to enjoy their constitutional right of freedom of expression and to enact measures that promote the use of Internet and privacy of citizens online.
2. Enact a privacy and data protection bill into law to prevent further cases of data misuse
3. Government should investigate cases of inhuman and degrading treatment of online activists and ensure errant officers are punished.
4. Government should desist from compromising the independence of state institutions.
5. Bridge the knowledge gap by making Internet accessible to all including women, young people and the rural populace.
6. Bridge the rural-urban digital divide through connecting rural areas and strengthening the national backbone.
7. Strengthen the independence of the Judiciary and avoid any perception of interference in the work of the judiciary.
*Note:* Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) is a Rights based social-policy advocacy Organisation. We Draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights. CHRDI is in Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and accredited to many UN Agencies.
ABDUL M FATOMA ( Chief Executive CHRDI )
©CHRDI-HUMAN RIGHTS AND POLICY BRIEF