The Ghana Internet Shutdown Conundrum Is Disturbingly Entangled In Press Mis-reportage
African governments censor the internet to quell protests often stirred by political concerns. As the trend cost the continent’s economy over USD 2 Bn last year, the 2020 elections has left people believing there will be a Ghana internet shutdown soon.
The country’s general elections is still months away, but some clamors have already surfaced as regards internet censorship. It appears media houses are once again blamed for the misreportage of an address by Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful.
In a conference themed Achieving A Common Vision For Internet Freedom, Owusu-Ekuful disclosed that the government of Ghana is working on a comprehensive cybersecurity law. The law aims to regulate the ethical use of the internet and safeguard online Ghanaians.
The in-the-works law, according to her comes as an effort of the Ministry of Information to curb the spread of fake news, especially on social media platforms. The two-day conference highlighted concerns regarding the growing trend of internet censorship and how the West African country can ensure online security.
Turns out, media outlets in Ghana misread the development and presented it as the government considering an internet shutdown. It only made sense to pin it to the elections since fake news and online clamor usually define such periods.
Over 10 million Ghanaians use the internet, with 9.28 million active mobile internet users which represent 32 percent of the total population.
Deputy Communications Minister, George Andah, clarified the situation to allay the fears of citizens. He discredited the reports which claimed the government would be compelled to self-regulated internet use if online security ethics are not observed.
“The issues of internet shutdown were discussed intensively in a session as a problem with a rising frequency which is taking place in many countries. A range of ideas from different stakeholders on how to address this trend were put forward,” Andah said.
Reaffirming that internet shutdown is not an option, the Deputy Commissioner said the Ministry is joining hands with stakeholders to put Human Rights Centered Protection and Regulations policies in place. This, logically, is to ensure everyone uses the internet responsibly.
Owusu-Ekuful herself has urged Ghanaians to treat the reports as fake news, “which only existed in the flimsy imagination of persons making the allegation”.
However, the Ministry of Communications does have plans for a shutdown, but not for the internet. The target is networking sites who are known to spread unchecked facts and fake news that threaten accord in the country. This could be a right move in the right direction given the uncanny, havoc-wreaking track record of false journalism.
The Minister told GhanaWeb that: “We need to sit down and have a dispassionate conversation particularly with the media, civil society organisations while focusing on individual rights and liberties. We also need to realise that the security of the state is also very paramount”.
“Now, your individual freedom ends where mine begins, so you can’t say you have a right to do something which will affect me negatively. We all have a competing right and we need to strike an even balance to protect everyone’s right,” she added.
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