New Cyber law goes to Court

New Cyber law goes to Court

Five Civil Society Organisations have petitioned the High Court for a declaration that various provisions of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act be declared unconstitutional and struck off the statute books.

The five organisations include Alliance for Community Action, Bloggers of Zambia, Chapter One Foundation, GEARS Initiative Zambia and Peoples’ Action for Accountability and Good Governance in Zambia.

Chapter One Foundation Executive Director Linda Kasonde said on behalf of the 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.

Ms Kasonde says 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 Kasonde has maintained that these 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.

Below is the full statement

JOINT CSO PRESS STATEMENT DATED 1ST APRIL 2021 ON THE CYBER SECURITY AND CYBER CRIMES ACT NO 2 OF 2021

On the 23rd March 2021 the President of the Republic of Zambia assented into law the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act No 2 of 2021.

The passing of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act is the culmination of several thinly veiled attempts by state actors and government officials to intimidate and even prosecute members of the public who air their opinions on online platforms.

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, have petitioned the High Court for a declaration that various provisions of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act be declared unconstitutional and struck off the statute books.

Prior to its being passed into law we, and many others, bemoaned the lack of engagement and/or consultation of NGOs, CSOs and other stakeholders in the drafting processes. We further attempted to engage the legislature to highlight the fact that, while it is imperative to ensure the safety of the public at large against cyber security threats, this must invariably be balanced with the right to freedom of expression and the need to maintain the right to privacy enjoyed by all members of the public.

Despite several statements highlighting specific provisions of the Bill which threatened to unjustifiably limit constitutionally guaranteed rights, these provisions have been maintained and are now law. While the Act contains progressive provisions particularly with regard to the cyber security of children, there are several provisions that have the potential to facilitate and even enhance the wanton surveillance and censorship of members of public through interception of communications. These provisions are unjustifiable in a democratic state and unconstitutional.

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. This platform has become even more important as the country and the world at large 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.

Linda Kasonde
Executive Director, Chapter One Foundation

Signed for and on behalf of the following CSOs:

Alliance for Community Action
Bloggers of Zambia
Chapter One Foundation
GEARS Initiative Zambia
Peoples’ Action for Accountability and Good Governance in Zambia

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