A private member’s bill seeking to protect the rights of internet users in Cameroon will soon be tabled at the National Assembly for scrutiny.
Arrangements for the tabling of the bill, an initiative of Bamenda-based non-governmental organization, A Common Future, The Cameroon Journal learnt yesterday, are far advanced.
Colbert Gwain Fulai, founder and Executive Director of A Common Future said recently that should the bill sail through, issues such as internet shutdown and surveillance by government should be brought under control.
Going by a draft of the bill titled “Creating a ‘Digital Bill of Rights’ for Cameroon: Why do we need it and what should we include?” the initiators disclosed that amongst other things, it seeks to ensure that the civil and human rights that apply in the physical world also apply online.
The bill, they said, also aims to establish the key rights that are particular to the digital sphere, ensure greater transparency around the ways in which government and private companies use personal data as well as protect and control citizens to take control of their own personal data and to make information choices about their digital lives.
In an introductory note, the initiators wrote: “Drawing from the sad experience of an unprecedented internet shutdown in parts of Cameroon and the human, economic, social, cultural and political consequences on Cameroon, this bill sets forth principles, guarantees, rights and duties for the use of the internet in Cameroon and establishes guidelines for action by government and its citizens in relation to the internet so that internet shutdowns do not become the new common in this nation.”
President Paul Biya ordered the restoration of internet services in the northwest and southwest regions of the country on April 20, 93 days after government shutdown the facility following protests in the Anglophone regions of the country.
The internet blackout was met with criticism and even more protests as regions unaffected by the shutdown led an online #BringBackOurInternet campaign to restore internet services to Anglophone regions. Rebecca Enonchong, a Cameroonian tech entrepreneur, said the campaign “was an expression of solidarity for those in the no-internet zones.” She told Quartz, “The millions of tweets of support gave them hope.” The blackout was also condemned by internet advocacy groups and United Nations officials, who described it as a rights violation.
Despite the blackout, some Cameroonian startups found ways to get online by creating an internet refugee camp On an even brighter note, during the shutdown, 17-year-old Nji Collins Gbah, whose hometown was cut off the internet, emerged as the first African winner in Google’s annual coding competition.
Cameroon has never adopted a Private member bill and at a time when government has announced sanctions to those who publish "false" information on social media, its certain the bill might have a tough fence to scale through from the CPDM dorminate house.