Government officials’ threats and malice to curtail citizens using social media platforms raises concern

The Working Group on Cyber Laws and Digital Security in Zambia is concerned with government officials’ threats and malice to curtail citizens using social media platforms to exercise their freedom of expression.

The Group comprising PANOS Institute Southern Africa, Bloggers of Zambia, MISA Zambia and the Zambia Council for Social Development has said that the right to free expression is guaranteed under Article 20 of the 2016 amended Constitution.

Speaking on behalf of the Group Nervious Siantombo, the PANOS Institute Programmes Manager said this right is enshrined in regional and international human rights instruments such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights to which Zambia is a signatory.

Mr Siantombo said in addition to this, Zambia has ratified and is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among other international instruments.

He said Article 19 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to freedom of expression and provides that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression which shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers either orally, in writing or in print, in form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

“Domestically, our Zambian Constitution protects the rights to freedom of expression under Article 20 which states that “Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receives and information without interference, freedom to impart and communicate ideas and information without interference, whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons, and freedom from interference with his correspondence”, he said

Mr Siantombo said contrary to allegations by some government officials who have spoken against citizens’ use of online platforms to raise issues of public interest, citizens harnessing social media to engage their democratically elected leaders is not abuse of the digital platforms.

He said in a democratic country like Zambia, citizens have the right to hold leaders to account on the manner they are managing the affairs of the country, through means or channels of their choice, including online or social media.

Mr Siantombo added that intimidating or attempting to silence citizens who use online platforms to speak out goes against the democratic principles on which our nation stands, as it stifles the online civic space, and infringes on citizens’ right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association online.

He said in view of the efforts to discredit social media, stakeholders who perceive the proposed cyber laws are meant to stifle online rights and freedoms may have reason to have the fears about pending internet regulations and social media tariff.

Mr Siantombo said instead of instilling fear in the citizens who are expressing their views and opinions on governance matters using online platforms, the government must work with stakeholders to guarantee and protect citizens’ online rights and freedoms. The government and all of us must encourage the use of technology to enhance our growing democracy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *