Paradigm Initiative (PIN) has condemned the stringent ban on the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in Tanzania as the world marks the Global Encryption Day on Saturday.

According to PIN, the move by the Tanzanian government undermines the rights of all its citizens to access information, communicate securely, and express themselves freely online.

PIN argues that VPNs are a key enabler of human rights online and protects against censorship by governments.

On October 14, 2023, Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) banned VPNs citing Regulation 16(2) of the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2020.

PIN says the move will clamp down on free speech, limit access to information, threaten the right to privacy and expose citizens relying on VPNs to cyber threats and illegal surveillance.

“In Africa, it has become common for governments to shut down or throttle the internet during electoral periods or to quell protests,” said PIN’s Programs Officer Sani Suleiman.

He added, “VPNs have been providing refuge to millions of citizens and allowing citizens to exercise their rights to express themselves online and participate in civic discourse freely.”

Paradigm Initiative, which advocates for digital rights and inclusion across Africa, has challenged key stakeholders to reject such efforts seeking to undermine encryption.

“The guarantee of secure and private communication is not only a fundamental human right but also an essential component of maintaining trust in the global digital ecosystem,” he noted.

He added that encryption ensures personal data, online communications, financial and sensitive information from individuals, businesses, and society are also fully safeguarded.

PIN says weakening of encryption makes it easier for governments and other entities to spy on communications, steal data, and censor online activity adversely affecting free speech.

On Global Encryption Day, PIN proposed end-to-end encryption and legal availing of VPNs for use by everyone, especially human rights defenders, journalists, and a host of others.