Digital vulnerability, a blow to my mental health and human rights work

Charles Donaldson Ogira March 22, 2022

Human rights defenders, journalists and activists are at increased risk of becoming victims of cyberattacks. Human rights defender Charles Donaldson Ogira shares how his social media accounts were hacked and tells us what lessons he learned.


Worried about regaining access to your social media account? Access Now, an organization that defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world has got you covered with a much more timely and rapid response help desk support.

One shouldn't live in shock when his or her social media accounts have been hijacked from them. Access Now helpline offers what I would call a fast and furious rapid response support to human rights defenders, journalists, activists whose accounts have been hacked, and they help you retrieve such accounts in hours upon reporting and proving the vitality of the human rights work you do.

Following the arrest and incommunicado detention of however an award-winning novelist Kakwenza, human rights defenders flocked various social media platforms to advocate on Twitter and send strong statements to the government of Uganda to unconditionally release Kakwenza from the wrathful humiliation to his non-derogable rights. It was like a tornado that struck Twitter to push for the releases of the brave bespectacled satirical humorist, and indeed I was one of those who couldn’t sleep before writing a clarion call or retweet to the various stakeholders duly obliged to ensure tripartite state obligations to protect, respect and promote human rights, thus subjecting me to target by unscrupulous persons on twitter. My account was hacked and for 2-4 days I was in total disarray for losing my twitter account that I long worked for since 2016 for it to gain 1000+ followers. I was mesmerized and completely antagonized. Luckily, I had attended RightsCon 2021, a world’s leading Summit on human rights in the digital era run by Access Now annually. This gave me a clear snapshot on what to do to recover my account when it’s hijacked or hacked. I had to consult within my network of Human Rights Defenders in the Digital Human Rights Lab which has got Digital security experts and Defenders of HRDs. I had to reach out to possible contacts to seek for the much needed support I needed to regain access to my account. upon making such requests, I was assured of support, I became a little composed but the blow was now dealing with thousands of questions ringing in mind should I fail to access my account, voices were talking to me inwardly that I needn’t have to use social media again if I happen to lose my twitter account.

I had quite a bunch of resourceful persons to reach out to for the assistance I needed at that time to regain access to my account I contacted Pollicy, Digital Security Alliance and Defend Defenders respectively, all members offering Tech based and digital solutions upon which they responded with the required support solutions needed for me to gain access to my account and referral to their various experts who made attempts to write to Access Now Help Desk. All of them wrote clarion calls with Twitter about the ordeal that had befell me. Barely after 10 minutes, I received an email from the Access Now help desk with a case token about the complaints they received regarding my twitter account and another thread of mail from Twitter asking for my account details. I was relieved and in a few hours’ time after giving all the necessary details and evidences of contents shared on twitter, I was able to gain access to my account, I sighed inwardly with much obsession and relaxed back on my chair with tears of joy rolling down my cheeks with questions resonating in my mind on how better I could have helped myself regain access to my account amid the depression and the exorbitant charges some suspected Tech experts had ganged up and were demanding for me to pay to get back my account.

Post Account recovery

Upon facing such threats that I only use to hear about from digital security training, I had to take my online presence seriously. I had to enable a 3FA (three factor authentication) to log in to my account. With the first step being password, second step, an SMS security code and third being an Authenticator code to prove and verify my identity.

Attacks on human rights defenders are not just by word of mouth till you become a victim. The work HRDs do subjects them to both physical and online presence threats which cause depression and mind boggling challenges thus the dire need for one to cautiously take their digital and physical presence seriously.

About the author

Charles Donaldson Ogira is a grassroots human rights defender and the founder of Youth Forum for Social Justice, a grassroots human right’s defender organization in Abim District offering grassroots mechanisms for human rights defenders protection, digital security support and trainings, Tech4Peace Advocacy campaigns to promote pacification to end the wanton killings in Karamoja arising from the disarmament exercise in the region subjecting the region to total insecurity. He is also a member of the Rapid Response committee of National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in Karamoja. Charles is a poet and he writes nerve cracking poems challenging the situation of human rights in his community and Uganda at large, he is a trained human rights monitoring, documenting and reporting expert by Defend Defenders and CIVICUS World Alliance, Digital Security coordinator for Karamoja under the Digital Security Alliance, Youth Forum for Social Justice is a member of the Digital Human Rights Lab, Charles is also a member of the Internet Society both Uganda Chapter and the Global chapter.