Paradigm Initiative unveils short film ‘FOCUS’ centred on protecting Citizens’ digital rights

Paradigm Initiative (PIN), a pan-African social enterprise working to advance digital rights and inclusion in Africa, will on Wednesday, October 20, release its second and latest short film entitled ‘FOCUS’ to the public on the YouTube platform where it can be accessed for free.

The release is preceded by a premiere on Thursday, October 14, which was attended by a rich and influential cast of prominent social and digital rights activists, journalists, policymakers, members of the diplomatic corps, social media influencers, and others.

FOCUS was directed by acclaimed filmmaker, Tolulope Ajayi, and produced by Up In The Sky, a creative and production agency based in Lagos. The short film creatively explores and dramatizes PIN’s 2020 annual digital rights and inclusion report dubbed Londa, which depicts the health of digital rights and inclusion in 20 African countries.

It follows PIN’s first and widely-regarded short film, Training Day, and marks a continuation of the organisation’s innovative trend to harness the power of story-telling in raising awareness on its research findings and spurring citizen-led actions on the protection of digital rights and government accountability.

The newly-released short film FOCUS especially accentuates the importance of citizen vigilance in confronting and halting the disturbing wave of restrictive policies enacted across several countries in Africa to constrict social spaces online, muffle speech, and subvert online mobilisation and democratic movements.

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Its release on October 20, 2021, a date when last year the Nigerian government violently quelled the nationwide ‘ENDSARS’ protest against police brutality that received global attention with an attack on protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, has refocused attention on the state of online freedoms in Nigeria and the power of citizens to mobilise freely.

Commenting, PIN Chief Operating Officer, Nnenna Paul-Ugochukwu said: “Focus is an exploratory way used by PIN to best impact the society through storytelling while spotlighting key issues plaguing the digital rights inclusion ecosystems. With this short film, we hope to inspire change and bring about radical thinking and adjustment.”

Twitter, the service that played a central role in how young Nigerians were able to mobilise and coordinate actions for the protest, remains inaccessible in Nigeria following a suspension enforced by the government since June 2021.

Internet blockades and arbitrary bans, a continent-wide problem in Africa, formed part of the central theme of the short film as PIN presented options to citizens facing such repression on how to maintain access using tailored tools it developed to boycott the blockades.

FOCUS also alerts citizens to means to identify and take collective actions against the subtle but increasingly desperate and broad-ranging plots by the government to slip through policies and other restrictive measures aimed at limiting online freedoms and censoring speech.

With the support of The Kingdom of Netherlands, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the United States Department of State, FOCUS continues Paradigm Initiative’s efforts to mainstream topical issues using the medium of storytelling as a vehicle of social transformation.

The short film is available for free viewing on PIN’s YouTube channel @ParadigmHQ, in English and French versions to cater to reach audiences from the anglophone and francophone parts of Africa.

Oje Ojeaga, CEO, Up In The Sky, the creative agency that produced the film, said the theme of the film depicts a problem faced by most African countries adding that every country is finding out that the government is over stepping their bounds and the regular people are the ones suffering for it.

Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative said that after seeing this short film, he hopes the regulatory authorities will look in the mirror to see who carried out the annoying acts.

“If you carry out these acts on citizens, it could affect your family members and even them when they are no longer in the government. We hope they will create an atmosphere where rights are respected.

“For citizens and others watching, we hope they take action and they take the issue seriously and we look forward to a nation that respects the rights of people and will focus on innovations instead of chasing young people around,” Sesan added.

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