Zim,Botswana CSOs advocate for responsible citizens’ digital use …as they pile pressure on fight for internet freedoms

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

Civic society organisations promoting freedom of expression have conceded that there is the need for advocacy on  citizens to use social media platforms responsibly among many other issues in promotion of internet freedoms.

Speaking at an ‘internet freedom advocacy’ workshop organized by Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa(CIPESA) in conjunction with MISA Zimbabwe with civil society organisations, human  and media rights activists in Zimbabwe and Botswana, Kuda Hove legal and ICT  officer with MISA Zimbabwe said , with citizens increasing fomenting insults and hate speech on the internet there was the need for civic organisations  to engage citizens in the responsible us of social media.

“What we have noticed especially in Zimbabwe is that   there is tendency among citizens to trade insults  on social media platforms which I think is abusing the freedom of expression and there is the need for  us  as civic organisations to shift our focus not on only  ratcheting pressure for government to  promote freedom of expression but also advocate for citizens not to abuse this,”  Kuda Hove said.

Hove also pointed out that citizens tend to over-look   digital rights as luxuries

While concurring with Hove, CIPESA programmes manager
Lillian Nalwoga  implored international
bodies like the International Telecommunications Union which promote ICT
use  to consider actively  involving 
civic organisations to promote internet freedoms

“One challenge which we have as civic organisations in
the quest for citizens to enjoy internet freedoms is that international
organisations that govern internet use tend to shut out civic organisations. For
example the ITU tends to focus on government telecommunications regulatory
authorities,” bemoaned CIPESA programmes manager.

University of Botswana Media lecturer Dr Letshwiti
Batlhalefi Tutwane blames most African legislators of   not
playing ball in advocating for   digital rights because of their limited
know-how on the importance of internet use.

“What I have noticed is that most of our African
legislators are not conversant with the digital world so instead of pushing for
policies that promote internet freedoms you have most time they discuss about
pot-holes on roads,” mocked Dr Tutwane.

In his presentation on ‘developing an advocacy plan and
strategy’, MISA Zimbabwe director Tabani Moyo encouraged civic organisations
advocating for internet freedoms to  
target influential players like government officials, telecommunications
players and establish a rapport with them.

“It is prudent that as you push for these digital
freedoms you work with people who have influence that maybe government
officials since they wield more influence so there is the need to create a
mutual understanding with them,” advised the MISA Zimbabwe director.

The two-day workshop seeks also to strengthen the
capacity of CSOs , media and human rights activists to engage in advocacy for
progressive cyber laws in Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Botswana has already enacted the CyberCrime and
Computer-Related Crimes Act which have been criticized for carrying vague
statutes and Zimbabwe’s CyberSecurity and CyberCrimes Bill   which is yet to ascend into law has also been
vilified for carrying retrogressive statutes.