Zambia pushes ahead with controversial cyber security legislation
Following months of scrutiny and despite concern from civil rights groups over lack of consultation and possible restriction of social media platforms, Zambia's cabinet has approved the introduction of the controversial Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill.
The Panos Institute Southern Africa, Bloggers of Zambia and the Zambia Centre for Social Development are among several civil society organisations that have argued the government should focus on strengthening existing cybercrime laws instead of introducing "bills that have been hidden to the public".
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya said the bill was approved by cabinet in principle this week and that once enacted, will facilitate the establishment of the Zambia National Cyber Security Agency. This body will serve as the highest coordination centre "for all matters related to cyber security at national level."
Siliya added that the legislation would provide for investigation and collection of evidence for computer and network related crimes, for the admission of electronic evidence for such crimes and "adequately deal with various crimes committed using social media platforms."
If enacted, the Bill will add Zambia to a list of other countries - including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda that have drafted cyber laws to address what authorities describe as the abuse of social media.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa MISA Zambia and Bloggers of Zambia have since issued a joint statement.
MISA Zambia chairperson Hellen Mwale and Bloggers of Zambia coordinator Richard Mulonga expressed concern over the speed with which the government is moving to enact the legislation that is aimed at regulating the internet and social media in Zambia.
"We call upon bloggers, journalists and activists to join our clarion call for a free, open and safe internet ecosystem for all, including women and girls. Our campaign both on Facebook and Twitter is using the hashtag #OpenSpaceZM," they said.