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9 J. Int'l & Comp. L. 131 (2022)
Democracy and Fake News in Africa

handle is hein.journals/jintcl9 and id is 133 raw text is: DEMOCRACY AND FAKE NEWS IN AFRICA

Charles Manga Fombad*
Abstract: It had been assumed that the advances in digital information
technology and its increasing availability to ordinary Africans would facilitate
broader public participation in decision-making and provide ordinary citizens
with an opportunity to hold their leaders accountable. However, the increasing
abuse and misuse of the internet and social media through fake news now
threatens to reinforce the emerging decline towards authoritarianism in
the continent. This article examines some of the risks posed by the diverse
manifestations of fake news and the attempts made by the African governments
to counter this. Its major contention is that, unless urgent measures are taken
at the national, regional and international levels, the threats posed by fake
news to the limited democratic gains made in the continent since the revival
of constitutional governance in the 1990s may see the continent return to the
dark authoritarian era of repressive and undemocratic rule.
Keywords: anti-fake news laws; constitutionalism; democracy; fake news;
internet; social media
I. Introduction
Social media has the potential to play an important role in enhancing democracy
and constitutionalism in Africa, by promoting and facilitating broader public par-
ticipation in decision-making and providing ordinary citizens with an opportunity
to hold their leaders accountable. The ever-increasing internet penetration in the
continent and the tremendous advances have made digital information technology
reasonably accessible to an average African.' However, in spite of its enormous
potential, the dangers posed by social media have become a matter of serious
* Charles Manga Fombad, Licence en Droit (University of Yaoundd), LLM, PhD (University of London),
is the Director, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA), Faculty of Law,
University of Pretoria, South Africa. Charles.fombad@up.ac.za. He is a member of the editorial board
of several distinguished national and international Journals. He is a member of the Academy of Science
of South Africa, an Associate Member of the International Academy of Comparative Law and a Vice
President of the International Association of Constitutional law. He has published widely. His research
interests are in comparative African constitutional law, media law, the African Union law, and legal
history, especially issues of mixed systems and legal harmonisation.
1 Even if this is still lower than the global average, it shows that Africa is rapidly catching up with the
digital revolution. See Internet Penetration in Africa as of December 2020, Compared to the Global
Average, available at https://www.statista.com/statistics/1176654/internet-penetration-rate-africa-com
pared-to-global-average/ (visited 14 March 2022). In December 2020, the internet penetration rate in
Africa stood at 43 per cent, meaning that about 4 out of 10 individuals in the continent used the web. By
contrast, the global average internet penetration rate was more than 60 per cent.
[(2022) 9:1 JICL 131-154]

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