13 November 2017

Liberia: Protel Wants GOL Ensure Child's Online Protection

A non-governmental organization under the banner, Child Online Protection of Liberia, is calling on government and stakeholders to implement strategies and polices to protect children to avoid lots of problems facing children online.

According to the group executive director, Thomas Williams Fomba said government should create technical and educational awareness sensitization to be carried out with more emphasis on child online protection, this he believed will amend the livelihood of children both online and offline.

PROTEL is directly focusing on children because they are more at risk then adults, and because there are more problems regarding child online protection as well as situation of children being violated on a daily basis.

He made the assertion recently in an exclusive interview with this paper in Monrovia.

Thomas Williams Fomba is quoted as saying "The Children are the vulnerable population in the country and they do not have the means of protecting themselves as compared to adults. There are couples of problems children faced online, including spam, harassments, and unsolicited among other things; they often seen on a daily basis and as such they should not be seeing such thing like the older ones. Therefore, there should be policies and strategies put in place by government to protect children online."

He recalled that at a recent Africa regional conference on child online protection (COP), recommendations were brought forth and presented as key strategies to safeguard and enhance the lives of children to be protected online.

Development of a sound research based on COP issues and establishment of a stakeholder working group to serve as the leading expert group that advises government on formalization and implantation of a national COP plan was developed.

Fomba explained that over the years, all of their advocacies in the country have been offline and not considering the impact the internet has on the vulnerable population.

"We are engaging in this as means of also educating the young population on the usage of the internet. The government of Liberia can also engage phone companies because children should not be allowed to see certain contents on the phone," he further asserted.

He cited the development of legal measures to review the existing Child Protection Act to include COP and the establishment of an online COP portal with child online form for reporting COP incidents, as well as a call center with special COP support numbers for the public to call for assistance.

"When this is being brought to the spotlight and implemented, the proposed dealings will help improve the safety of the country's young people against abuse, exploitation, and other ills within the society.

The cooperation of all relevant stakeholders will make the implementation less cumbersome and faster. Stakeholders, especially civil society, will have a conscientiously monitor closely the execution of the roadmap to guarantee that its objective is achieved."

According to him, periodic review and update of the strategies will also be appropriate as it tackles the already persistent widespread violence and abuse against children and young people in Liberia.

He added that there are no guideline or set rules on how issues of online abuses or violations against children and young people are to be addressed.

On February 4, 2012 the government of Liberia launched the children's law of Liberia as means of ensuring the protection of children and their rights to copiously participate meaningfully within the development process.

He noted that said laws reflect on government's commitment to support the progressive realization of all rights for all children after a lengthy period of time of advocacy coming from prominent individuals and institutions.

According to Fomba, these respective laws only seek to protect children offline; but not online, as such, there are no know policies or institutional framework, or even organizational support that corroborates child online protection in Liberia accept for the recent established protect the children (PROTEL) which is now working hard towards achieving this unfettered and tremendous goal.

The participation of stakeholders, crafting and implementation of laws, good laws to be implemented, and creating a child online protection center where children who are victims can call for assistance on these issues affecting them, are among several recommendations made to government.

"In Ghana and Kenya the governments have leading groups for child online protection, so, he wants for same to be done for children in Liberia since they lack such an opportunity," he added.

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