How the right to be online has been assaulted in Zimbabwe

/Major highlights

This research is an attempt to highlight key challenges encountered by civil society, political parties, journalists, social movements and the private sector in accessing internet and to promote the enjoyment of internet freedoms and proffer recommendations thereof with a view to advocate for online freedoms.

Key highlights of the study are:

  • For citizens to claim and enjoy their „right to connect and be online‟, following (but not all encompassing) three key milestones should be considered as preconditions: (i) the presence of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and (ii) a fair relationship between ISPs, the government and the consumers (enshrined in law, customs, culture, governance) is needed for citizens to justifiably claim their right to be online in any country whereas, (iii) the growth in number of ISPs increases the accessibility of this right to all citizens.
  • Internet freedom and/or right to connect to internet is provided for in Zimbabwean constitutional law and international law to which Zimbabwe is party.
  • It is undoubtedly true that full access to internet substantially extends the ability of citizens to exercise and enjoy rights as well as being an enabler for democracy to thrive.
  • The internet has deep value for freedom of opinion and expression, as it amplifies the voice and multiplies the information within reach of everyone who possesses unlimited access to it.
  • Stifling of internet access is uncalled for since one of the main purposes of ICT is to foster free exchange of views and information which supports human rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to privacy which are all tenets of democracy.
  • It is unfortunate that the government of Zimbabwe strives to restrict online human freedoms and it has to this date done much to inhibit access to internet. This has been experienced through content blocks, censorship, shut-downs, lawmaking and court persecutions which seriously inhibit democracy and human rights promotion and protection activities by human rights defenders.
  • Internet connection facts indicate that there has been an impressive struggle for internet connection despite a prohibitive political environment and its economic consequences in place.
  • Most people in Zimbabwe access internet using mobile phones and social media seems to be the internet for many and WhatsApp (5.4milion users) is the most popularly used across the country.
  • Internet connection remains a challenge to the majority of Zimbabweans considering the fact that 28.4% of total mobile base stations in the country are allocated to rural areas that are home to an estimated 68,9% of the population of Zimbabwe.
  • It is therefore indisputable that in the 51.5% of population that has no internet access; people from rural areas occupy the largest portion. Those with limited access rely on mobile telephony to access it and data costs are extremely high.

Source: Zimbabwe Democracy Institute and Media Centre

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