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PRESS RELEASE : INTERNET SHUTDOWN AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN ZAMBIA

12 August

INTERNET SHUTDOWN AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN ZAMBIA

The Fight Inequality Alliance Zambia is a mass movement working round the clock to fight the growing scourge of inequality. We have noted with great concern the Zambian government’s threats to shut down the internet during this election period. If you are reading this statement, it means they have followed through on these threats and we have asked global allies to release this statement on our behalf.

There is now a disruption of internet services in the country with social media access blocked amidst the ongoing general elections. We fear this is likely to develop into a full internet shutdown. The Alliance decries this as a violation of Zambian voter’s rights to expression and ability to access accurate information at this critical and politically sensitive moment in the country. Make no mistake, our democratic freedoms are at stake.

We are deeply troubled by, and condemn the massive human rights violations committed in the general election period in Zambia. This includes among other things the suppression of Freedom of Expression through the social media shutdown, the intimidation of citizens and voters through the unnecessary deployment of the army before and during elections, the intimidation of the media through cadre violence and direct intimidation of journalists.

The protection of national security and public safety are genuine concerns, but internet shutdowns have proven to limit rights of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and expression the world over. They are often used as tools of repression by authoritarian governments. The internet shutdown will also impact all users, especially marginalised groups and those in vulnerable situations across the country. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has proven that internet access is an enabler of accessing basic human needs such as healthcare and education. We cannot be silent while these rights are denied to us.

Human rights should be respected online just as they are respected offline. Zambia in the past has been known for its peacefulness and stable democracy that include free and fair elections since 1991. The Government of Zambia must respect citizens’ rights to access information and freedom of expression as guaranteed by Zambian laws as well as the Zambian Constitution by restoring access to the internet immediately. The continued blocking of the internet will limit journalists and human rights defenders to report on human rights violations and abuses and this will limit the ability of citizens to hold the government accountable during this process, thus preventing a free and fair election.

The Fight Inequality Alliance Zambia is further calling for global solidarity on the situation in Zambia as we cannot witness our democratic freedoms being eroded. We urge you not to stand by silently, and use your voice while ours are silenced.

Fight Inequality Alliance Zambia Media Team fightinequalityzambia@gmail.com.

For global inquiries, contact media@fightinequality.org

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