BLOGGERS of Zambia has urged citizens to respect the rights and freedoms of others while they are online.
And chief executive officer Richard Mulonga says the words ‘abuse of social media’ must not be weaponised by politicians to suppress internet rights and freedoms.
On Wednesday President Edgar Lungu, while meeting the clergy in Mafinga District in Muchinga Province, said he was disappointed with the high levels of abuse of social media in the country, saying he would engage ZICTA to bring the Social Media “insulter” to book.
He further challenged ICT experts to explore ways in which social media abusers in Zambia could be blocked from accessing it.
But Mulonga said Zambians do not want internet to be closed and filtered like in Uganda during recent elections but instead laws and policies that encourage safe and accessible to all.
“Our questions is, what is abuse of social media? Is it when citizens demand transparency and accountability from their elected leaders? Is it when citizens discuss the allegations of corruption that are currently going on? We recognise problems on the internet, but the words ‘abuse of social media’ must not be weaponised by politicians to enact and roll out brazen laws and policies that have the potential to suppress internet rights and freedoms,” he said.
“We have noted the interest on social media as we head towards the elections and we ask why? We don’t want the internet to be shut down and filtered like in Uganda, Zimbabwe, DRC during elections. We want laws and policies that encourage safe and accessible internet for all including women and girls. We want laws and policies that have specific and not vague provisions that can be used to arrest and persecute internet users like what is currently happening where certain legitimate civic activities are being called abuse of social media.”
He said internet space has similar challenges as physical space, saying internet law would help enhance safety and security of citizens.
Mulonga said acceptable limits and laws would help safeguard the rights of others.
“Agreeably, there are problems on the internet, just like the physical space outside the internet. Even if there are these problems on the internet, we need legitimate reasons to enact appropriate and democratic laws to bring about internet governance. We want laws that will protect citizens online and enhance their safety and security,” Mulonga said.
“We want to make a clarion call for citizens to remain within acceptable limits and laws when engaging in public discourse online. We urge citizens to respect each other’s rights and freedoms, including those in public office even as we offer criticism in governance processes. Additionally, we call for enhanced education and awareness programmes to inform citizens what social media is and its role in both the democracy and the economy,” said Mulonga.
Kalemba January 20, 2021