Zambia’s government slams internet shutdown rumours
A source within Zambia’s Ministry of Communications and Transport has told ITWeb Africa that the government plans to shut the internet down when citizens head to the polls on 12 August during the country’s national elections.
The insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Zambia’s Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) has already been notified of the plan, and that the government has evidence to suggest that “negative elements” plan to incite citizens via social media to demonstrate the outcome of elections.
He said, “Unless the government changes the plan because of too much pressure from stakeholders both within and outside the country, there will be no internet throughout the country from Thursday August 12 to Sunday 15th. The government fears that as election results come in, those who will not be happy will start mobilising protests through social media.”
Over 40 human rights, freedom of expression and technology organisations, under the auspices of the #KeepItOn coalition against internet shutdowns, have written to Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu calling on him to ensure that the internet and digital communications remain uninterrupted throughout Zambia’s general elections period and to refrain from arbitrarily blocking access to social media platforms.
In the correspondence, dated 5 August 2021, members of the coalition said, "... in the lead-up to the elections, Zambian authorities had already introduced a number of laws, including the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act, 2021, the Data Protection Act, 2021 and the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, 2021, that could enhance the government’s control of Zambia’s online civic space.”
Amos Malupenga, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, said internet shutdown rumours are false and malicious propaganda.
Malupenga said the government remains committed to the free flow of information. “Government wishes to urge law-abiding citizens to continue using the internet and other social media platforms responsibly and in conformity with the provision of the Electoral Process Act and other laws, such as the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act and the Penal Code Act which prohibits dissemination of falsehoods and inflammatory statements that have the potential to destabilise the country.”