Zambia backtracks on response to internet shutdown rumours
Zambia’s government has warned it could shut down the internet on 12 August as the country heads to the polls for the General Elections.
After initially dismissing claims it would resort to an internet blackout earlier in the week, officials have now advised of the possibility.
Amos Malupenga, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, said the government will be forced to shutthe internet down if Zambians “fail to correctly use the cyberspace” during this year’s elections.
Malupenga said: “Government has a duty to ensure that peace and stability are maintained and will not allow any breakdown of law and order during the election period. If people decide to abuse the internet to peddle falsehood that could destabilise the country, government will not hesitate to act.”
But the Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) responded with a counter warning and said any attempt by government to shut down the internet during election time may escalate tension and risk civil strife.
PAZA president Andrew Sakala said a shutdown would negatively affect online, print and broadcast media houses whose operations depend on the internet.
“I want to warn the government to tread carefully with taking such a decision, especially that it may be perceived as targeted at any dissenting voice that may publish, say or write information that is correct but does not sit well with the state. I challenge the state to clearly state the key indicators that would necessitate information blackout,” said Sakala.
The US government and European Union (EU) are understood to be closely monitoring the situation in Zambia.