Mask or muzzle: The impact of COVID-19 measures on digital rights in Kenya

When we first heard of COVID-19 and how it was ravaging Europe, we did not think that it would have a great impact on our laws, especially digital rights. The expectation was more on the government imposing limitations on freedom of assembly, to enforce social distancing, and on the right to privacy since contact tracing involves sharing people’s personal information with third parties. Upon the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in Kenya, the government swung into action by enacting various pieces of legislation and measures. While the measures were well-intended, the manner in which existing laws have been interpreted during this COVID-19 period has proved the adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The systematic shrinking of the digital rights space
In this article, I will discuss the COVID-19 measures that touch on digital technologies and their impact on digital rights as stated in the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms.1 I will then show how existing laws have been implemented during this COVID-19 period in ways that undermine digital rights also contained in the African Declaration. The last part of the article will discuss what Kenya needs to do when implementing COVID-19 measures without unnecessary infringements to people’s digital rights.

This article was first published by the Africa Declaration for Internet Rights

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