In 2018, Media Defence published a research report titled ‘Mapping Digital Rights and Online Freedom of Expression in East, West and Southern Africa’ that mapped laws relating to digital rights, tracked the status of related litigation, highlighted opportunities for further efforts to advance the field, and identified relevant legal and civil society actors across the region.
The present report serves as an update and thematic review of some of the critical topics in digital rights litigation in East, West and Southern Africa, providing an overview of developments in jurisprudence, legislation and practice in the past three years, and highlighting lessons learned to further advance digital rights in the region going forward.
The report begins with an overview of the digital rights landscape and an introduction to the research methodology, before delving into recent developments in seven themes of particular relevance at present — (i) defamation; (ii) national security, counter-terrorism and public order laws; (iii) laws restricting online content and access; (iv) internet shutdowns; (v) cybercrime legislation; (vi) media regulation and newsgathering activities; and (vii) data protection. Following this review, high-level trends and themes are extracted through a jurisprudential trends analysis, which maps out some of the most significant court cases in digital rights in East, West, and Southern Africa since 1994. This review demonstrates the progress made in multiple areas of digital rights and freedom of expression online across the region, while also highlighting gaps and areas where further litigation might be fruitful.