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Kenya: Survey finds human rights defenders highly concerned by unlawful communication surveillance

'Perception survey report: the impact of communication surveillance on human rights defenders in Kenya', 23 March 2021

Numerous Kenyan HRDs have raised concerns about their mobile phones being tapped and their communication intercepted. Due to the negative implications on their security and that of their family, these experiences have had a chilling effect on the exercise of their rights and freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. It is essential to ensure that HRDs are not the subject of unlawful surveillance practices and that they are able to do their work without fear of snooping by anyone is of paramount importance. Due to the constitutional and statute-based protection of private communications in Kenyan law, lawful surveillance must meet minimum standards provided in law necessary in a democratic society to achieve a legitimate aim. Individuals must be protected against arbitrary interference with their right to communicate privately... This report analyses the needs, concerns, and areas of interests for HRDs in relations to privacy, data protection, and communications surveillance. It also establishes how surveillance impacts HRDs work and their role as actors of change in society. Human rights work demands the use of communication tools ranging from face-to-face, traditional communication mediated tools like telephone and now, digital tools... Majority of HRDs believe that they have already been under communication surveillance because of their work. This includes through phone tapping and hacking of their social media and email accounts... Majority are concerned that the data collected as part of measures to address COVID-19 pandemic is not in safe hands of the government or corporates...