Govt urged to promote digital rights

Source: Govt urged to promote digital rights – NewsDay Zimbabwe

BY DONALD NYANDORO

GOVERNMENT has been urged to promote digital rights by ensuring that voices that call for transparency and accountability in the management of public funds and resources are protected.

In a statement on access to information, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) decried the gagging of critical voices that call for transparency and accountability.

“Efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation have a direct effect on the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and information. In previous instances government has suspended internet access and blocked access to social media platforms,” part of the statement read.

“This has happened most often during times of political turmoil like protests and elections such as the January 2019 protests and the July 2020 protests, ahead of the much-anticipated July 31st march.”

Zimcodd said the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had illuminated the need for access to information in the country so that correct information about the pandemic can be
disseminated.

“Zimbabwe has five international gateways for internet traffic, controlled by State-owned TelOne and Powertel, and privately owned Dandemutande, Econet and Africom. The State controls two of the country’s gateways and this gives government the ability to restrict access to the internet and mobile networks,” the lobby group said.

“The infringement on individual privacy through internet monitoring has been aggravated by the absence of strong or recommended data protection safeguards.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the significance of technology in the lives of individuals and communities, and it has also brought to the fore the glaring digital divide in the country, and has deepened digital exclusion.”

It is imperative, Zimcodd said, for people with disability to access ICTs in the digital society so that they can access education,engage in remote work, and participate in democratic processes, among others.

“High internet costs continue to deepen this divide.  The governments, their agencies and authorities should drop all regressive measures that curtail digital rights and freedoms and instead, adopt and undertake measures that promote the protection and enjoyment of digital rights and freedoms,” Zimcodd said.

“Civil society organisations, telecommunication companies, and other stakeholders are, therefore, called upon to work together and promote the enjoyment of their rights and freedoms in the digital space without fear or repression.”

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