Zambia moves to allay fears of internet shutdown
Ahead of Zambia’s Presidential and General Elections in August this year, authorities have downplayed fears expressed by foreign diplomats and civil society organisations of a possible shutdown of the internet.
There is concern over a potential deliberate move by authorities to cut access to the internet because of the controversial cybercrime law passed in March.
In addition to the views expressed by opposition political parties and organisations like the Bloggers of Zambia, Swedish ambassador to Zambia Anna Maj Hultgard said threats, online-and offline, levelled against the media constitute threats to freedom of expression and democracy.
Hultgard said internet and social media has helped to inform citizens and has contributed towards growth of a more independent civil society.
She is quoted by the local Mast newspaper as having said: “Human rights, democracy and the rule of law must be respected and secured by states and are a fundamental prerequisite for all discussions on digital issues including on cyber security and cybercrime. We must address the digital divides including the gender divide that hinder many from enjoying their human rights.”
Germany’s Ambassador to Zambia Anne Wagner-Mitchell described the internet as potentially the most important medium for both information distribution and public debate.
Mitchell said she was aware of the current discussion regarding self-regulation in the traditional media sector in Zambia and said she believed there is room for a certain amount of self-regulation within cyberspace.
Misheck Lungu, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Transport told ITWeb Africa that the government has no plans to shut the internet down for whatever reason.
Lungu stated: “We are a responsible government that believes in the freedom of speech by citizens. The internet will remain open during and after elections. The cyber security law that people keep referring is purely for the protection of citizens and not to suppress their liberties. The only ones who should be scared about this law are criminal elements.”