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CSOs Pile Pressure on Zim Gvt for unfettered Internet Governance and Freedoms

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By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

 

Zimbabwe’s civil society organisations  are exerting pressure on the government to ensure that good Internet governance and freedoms are guaranteed for citizens.

Media Centre director Ernest Mudzengi, who is also the chairperson of the Radio VOP Board of Trustees said  his organisation is working with other civic society groups to  petition  Parliament   to ensure issues to do with Internet governance and freedoms are  easily attainable .

“We are already lobbying together with  organisations like the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), the Platform for Youth Development and  Radio VOP among many other stakeholders to have input from citizens on what to cite in the petition for Internet governance and freedoms which will obviously hand over after  elections,” said Mudzengi who  was speaking on Thursday at an Internet Governance and Freedom multi-stakeholders workshop organised  by his organisation and ZDI in partnership with Counterpart  International with support from USAID .

Tabani Moyo, the director of MISA Zimbabwe lamented the lumping together of the Cyber Crime  and Cyber Security Bill together with the Data Protection Bill and the Electronic Transactions Bill saying it ‘muddies’ fundamental rights.

“The Cyber Crime and Cyber Security  Bill is an omnibus  bill and this has seen  the Data Protection Bill and the Electronic Transaction being relegated to the peripheries as much time is being  apportioned to the debate on Cyber Crime  and Security while ignoring the two which are also equally competitive,” argued Moyo .

He also warned of government surveillance online citing the arrest of   Martha   O’ Donovan  of Magamba Network for insulting ousted

 president Robert Mugabe last year.

ZDI boss Dr Pedzisayi Ruhanya said in the quest for freedom of the press government is failing  citizens  by imposing hefty broadcasting  licensing fees.

“The broadcasting fees in Zimbabwe is way too much and that inhibits access and freedom of the press,” cited  Dr Ruhanya.

The Internet is being used as a way of instilling fear into the rural folk, according to Claris Madhuku whose organisation Platform for Youth Development(PYD) works with rural communities in Chipinge and Chisumbanje.

“There is the need for conversation on Internet governance and freedoms to permeate the rural populace as right now the Internet is being used to intimidate people,” revealed Madhuku.

Margaret Chogugudza a women’s rights activist says more women are still failing   to access   the Internet  owing to archaic cultural issues.

“It is disheartening that we still have women who are denied access to the Internet by their husbands who   make every effort to   ensure their wives don’t possess smart-phones,” she fumed.

Dominic Bellone, a senior program officer at Counterpart International , implored civic society organisation to do researches in their advocacy bid  for Internet governance and freedoms.

“Researches   which have documented evidence and are not opinionated   are essential in bolstering advocacy   for internet governance and freedoms,” advised Bellone.

He also spoke on the need for extensive public awareness campaigns to ensure the citizenry is aware of their online rights and freedoms.

The   Cyber Crime and Cyber  Security Bill is being argued as a necessary tool in dealing with Internet governance and freedoms but the general feeling is that there is a ploy by government to muzzle the space as evidenced by some of the vague statutes like Section 17 which speak on fake news but does not define what exactly is fake news as this can be viewed subjectively.

 

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