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Press Release: Right to Pri­vacy given its due at the African Com­mis­sion

For Imme­di­ate Release: 15 Novem­ber 2017


Last week, at the 61st ordi­nary ses­sion of the African Com­mis­sion on Human and Peo­ples’ Rights (ACHPR), Advo­cate Pansy Tlakula, out­go­ing Chair­per­son of the African Com­mis­sion and Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Free­dom of Expres­sion and Access to Infor­ma­tion, made men­tion of the impor­tance of the pro­tec­tion of per­sonal infor­ma­tion and cyber­se­cu­rity in both her open­ing and clos­ing state­ments.


The Legal Resources Cen­tre sup­ports her com­mit­ment to the right to pri­vacy in the above form as it pro­tects the infor­ma­tion of the poor and vul­ner­a­ble from unscrupu­lous com­pa­nies and cred­i­tors, who use the infor­ma­tion for direct mar­ket­ing and preda­tory lend­ing; and pro­tects the gen­eral pub­lic from unfet­tered and wide-reaching dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance by the state.


Advo­cate Tlakula is also South Africa’s Infor­ma­tion Reg­u­la­tor and will now be return­ing full time to this role as she leaves the African Com­mis­sion. We are pleased by her unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to the right to pri­vacy and con­grat­u­late her on her fine work at the Com­mis­sion in encour­ag­ing the enjoy­ment of the rights to free­dom of expres­sion and access to infor­ma­tion, par­tic­u­larly regard­ing her work on media free­dom and on the model law on access to infor­ma­tion.


At the African Com­mis­sion, the LRC suc­cess­fully put for­ward a rec­om­men­da­tion to the NGO forum encour­ag­ing the adop­tion of the spe­cial dis­cus­sion group on per­sonal infor­ma­tion pro­tec­tion and cyber­se­cu­rity, with the view to advo­cat­ing for the African Com­mis­sion to adopt a res­o­lu­tion in this regard.


To this end, the LRC is facil­i­tat­ing the coor­di­na­tion of a group to bring together inter­ested mem­bers of civil soci­ety in the infor­ma­tion rights space to dis­cuss the posi­tions and prin­ci­ples which the spe­cial dis­cus­sion group will adopt, and to plan for the next NGO Forum and ACHPR ses­sion.


We fur­ther stressed the impor­tance of per­sonal infor­ma­tion pro­tec­tion and cyber­se­cu­rity in our state­ment to the African Commission’s ses­sion on the Human Rights Sit­u­a­tion in Africa: “The pre­dom­i­nance of elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions today and grow­ing capac­ity for states and pri­vate actors to unlaw­fully inter­cept these com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pri­vate infor­ma­tion cre­ates a most press­ing need for pri­vacy in this area. The impact of sur­veil­lance and unlaw­ful data reten­tion on human rights has entered the fore of demo­c­ra­tic dis­cus­sions through­out the world. While tech­no­log­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion inno­va­tions have enabled a greater breadth of com­mu­ni­ca­tion across Africa, they have also opened unin­vited win­dows into cit­i­zens’, par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble individual’s, lives. These win­dows must be reg­u­lated in ways that ensure demo­c­ra­tic prin­ci­ples are main­tained.”


The Legal Resources Cen­tre, its part­ners in the Inter­na­tional Net­work of Civil Lib­er­ties Organ­i­sa­tions and other part­ner NGOs have offered their tech­ni­cal exper­tise, skills and capac­ity on per­sonal infor­ma­tion and cyber­se­cu­rity to the African Com­mis­sion in order for the right to pri­vacy, as man­i­fested in per­sonal infor­ma­tion pro­tec­tion and cyber­se­cu­rity, to form part of the man­date of the incom­ing Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Free­dom of Expres­sion and Access to Infor­ma­tion and hope­fully for this work to crys­tallise into a res­o­lu­tion of the Com­mis­sion.


South Africa is one of the few coun­tries in Africa with data pro­tec­tion leg­is­la­tion through the Pro­tec­tion of Per­sonal Infor­ma­tion Act and we stress the need for the full recog­ni­tion and imple­men­ta­tion of the Act. We are, how­ever, con­cerned about the Cyber Secu­rity Bill, cur­rently in Par­lia­ment, which unduly reg­u­lates free expres­sion on the inter­net and cre­ates open­ings for undue inter­fer­ence by the state with crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion infra­struc­ture.


We are hope­ful that advo­cacy at the regional level will bring about a prin­ci­pled posi­tion which will influ­ence not only the South African state, but all African states towards greater enjoy­ment of pri­vacy, open access to infor­ma­tion and free expres­sion.







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