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Zambia rejects new constitution permitting online news freedom

Michael Malakata | April 14, 2014
The government is instead drafting a law that would regulate online news sites, following similar measures by other African nations.

Online journalists and other Internet users in Burundi, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Morocco and Ethiopia have already faced arrests or criminal prosecutions for posting content online, he said.

The editorial board of the Zambia Reports, which operates in hiding for fear of being arrested, said, "We are deeply concerned about the government's statement with regard to regulation of the online media. Given the government's past conduct, there is significant risk that the new law would violet freedom of expression."

Media organizations should be allowed to use technology to reach people across Zambia, said Viola Morgans, the United Nations Development Program country director for Zambia.

"Much more can be done in promoting the use of technology in Zambia as the country is still strengthening its reach and utility," Morgans said.

If Zambia moves forward with a law to regulate online news media, it will join a growing list of African nations that have taken such measures.

In Gambia, lawmakers last year passed the Information and Communication Act, making some online speech punishable by 15-year jail terms. Illegal online speech includes making "derogatory" statements about government officials and spreading "false news" about government officials.

Cameroon and Angola have passed similar laws with tough criminal penalties and the Malawian government has also drafted laws to regulate and control online communications, including social media networks.

 

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