The government has admitted that it may shut down the internet if Zambians fail to correctly use cyberspace during this year’s election. Lusaka Times last week exclusively revealed that the government has resolved to shut down the internet from Thursday, the voting day until Sunday, a day after vote-counting is are expected to be concluded
Government through Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga immediately issued a statement dismissing the report and described it as malicious.
But Mr. Malupenga has u-turned and admitted that an internet shutdown is an option. Mr Malupenga charged that government will not tolerate abuse of the cyberspace by Zambians. He added that if there is any mischief in the use of the internet and those found wanting might end up inconveniencing not only themselves but the rest of the country when government invokes the necessary laws.
Mr Malupenga said Government will not hesitate to invoke the relevant legal provisions if some people decide to abuse the internet to peddle falsehoods that could destabilise the country during this time of elections. He added that Government has a duty to ensure peace and stability are maintained and will not allow any breakdown of law and order.
“Government, therefore, expects citizens to use the internet responsibly. But if some people choose to abuse the internet to mislead and misinform, Government will not hesitate to invoke relevant legal provisions to forestall any breakdown of law and order as the country passes through the election period,” Mr. Malupenga said.
Mr. Malupenga was speaking when he handed over a video camera and a mobile phone to a Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS) reporter based in Ikeleng’i District in North-Western Province, Victor Mwila, who was attacked by alleged UPND cadres in his course of duty in the area.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services bought the items as a replacement of the same that were stolen from Mr. Mwila during the attack.
On political violence, Mr. Malupenga observed that President Edgar Lungu’s decision to deploy the military personnel to support the Zambia Police in maintaining security is bearing fruit.
He said Government is happy that since the military were deployed, there have been no serious incidences of violence.
And Mr. Malupenga said the Ministry decided to replace the video camera and mobile phone that were stolen from Mr. Mwila in order to avoid disruption in his reportorial work especially this time when electoral activities are at their peak ahead of the August 12 General Elections.
“I wish to send a strong warning out there, however, that the law will not spare anyone that harasses the media in the course of their duties. The freedom and safety of the media to inform, educate and entertain the public is to be respected and upheld by all, as guaranteed in the laws of the land,” said Mr. Malupenga.
Mr. Mwila thanked Government and fellow media practitioners for the support during the traumatic ordeal he went through. On 23rd July, 2021, Mr. Mwila, while on duty, was attacked by alleged UPND cadres.
During the attack Mr. Mwila suffered serious physical injuries in which a video camera, a mobile phone and some money were also stolen from him. This is according to a statement issued by the Press and Public Relations Unit at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services.