THE Zambian High Court has been petitioned to declare some provisions in the just-enacted Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act 2021 as unconstitutional and struck them off the statute books.
The petition has been made by the Alliance for Community Action, Bloggers of Zambia, Chapter One Foundation, GEARS Initiative Zambia and Peoples’ Action for Accountability and Good Governance in Zambia.
In a joint statement Chapter One Foundation Executive Director Linda Kasonde spoke on behalf of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that the passing of the Cyber Security and Crimes Act is the culmination of veiled attempts by state actors and government officials to intimidate and even prosecute members of the public who air their opinions on online platforms.
She pointed out that while it is imperative to ensure the safety of the public against cyber security threats, it must always be balanced with the right to freedom of expression and the need to maintain the right to privacy.
Ms Kasonda but said that the provisions are unjustifiable in a democratic state and unconstitutional but hopes that the court will give generous interpretation to the rights enshrined in the Constitution which apply without limitation in the cyber space.
She explained that in a shrinking civic space, social media platforms and other online media present alternative platforms for members of the public to air their views on matters of public interest and gather virtually to share such views without the inhibitions of the much-abused Public Order Act.
Ms Kasonde also pointed out that the social media platform has become even more important as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and the regulations it necessitated.
“The Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act threatens this use of the cyber space. It is our hope that the court will give generous interpretation to the rights enshrined in the Constitution which we believe apply without limitation in the cyber space,” she said.