This is an email from Google on online freedom in sub-Sahara Africa. We just produced it in entirety.
Our mission as a company is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful – it is therefore in our interest for free exchange of information to flourish online. As access to online information continues to grow in Africa, and in the aftermath of the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, we are beginning to see governments crack down on dissent in order to prevent free expression both online and offline. There is a growing need to raise awareness about the complex issues surrounding new technology and social media tools that are used for activism.
These growing concerns led Google to partner with Global Voices and the Committee to Protect Journalists to host journalists and bloggers from over a dozen African countries for a workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa about online freedom of expression. The aim was to give participants an opportunity to share their strategies and best practices for safeguarding free expression and the right to access to information.
The workshop on June 8th and 9th included a number of expert presenters who shared their knowledge with the group. The participants learned about the status of freedom of expression in the region, security risks arising from using technology, and tools and tactics that can be used to mitigate some of the risk. Presenters also shared case studies on covering elections and advocacy campaign tactics, as well as practical tutorials on how to secure information online. Most importantly, the attendees took advantage of the opportunity to get to know each other, compare notes about the political climates under which they operate, and bond over their similar (and often lonely) struggles. For many, it was the first time that they had the chance to meet other journalists and bloggers who work in similar environments across Africa.
The workshop was an eye-opener to all: from learning about just how vulnerable working online can make an individual, to discovering the sheer breadth of online tools that exist to help them do their jobs. During the last workshop session each of the participants stood up and explained how they wanted to move forward, as well their takeaways from the two days. The most telling question that arose more than any other… “So when can we do this again?”