On July 8, 2019, the Working Group on Cyber Laws in Zambia, a partnership involving Bloggers of Zambia, Panos Institute Southern Africa, MiSA Zambia and the Zambia Council for Social Development launched a project called ZAMBIA CIVIL SOCIETY ACTORS ADVOCATING FOR THEIR RIGHTS IN THE DIGITAL SPHERE, at Cresta Golfview hotel in Lusaka. This is with support from the GIZ Civil Society Participation Programme (GIZ-CSPP) in Zambia.
The Working group on Cyber Laws in Zambia came together in November 2017 during a Civil Society Consultative meeting on the state of Civil Society in Zambia. This was prompted by the concern on the declining civic space in the region and across Africa.
The objectives of the Working Group is to mobilise civil bloggers, media, society and stakeholders to demand for internet governance and push back the closed process of enacting cyber laws and taxes.
The Working Group has been implementing advocacy and campaigning actions calling for democratic internet legislation in Zambia.
The #OpenSpaceZM Campaign was conceived to push for the rights to free expression, peaceful assembly and Association online, the campaign seeks to promote citizen engagement in the issues that affect them.
The Working Group has so far held stakeholder mobilisation meetings, engagement meetings with the Ministers and MPs, training in Cyber security and the use of social media for journalism, advocacy and campaigning and established a position paper on the proposed Cybercrimes and Cyber Security Bill.
According to Bloggers of Zambia, there is need for cyber laws that will protect the rights of citizens because the internet is the only space for citizens therefore it must not be targeted with undemocratic laws. The proposed cybercrimes and cyber security bill has been viewed as a threat to digital rights. The traditional media spaces are closed therefore more citizens are using the cyberspace.
According to MISA Zambia the cyberspace has enhanced the right to information as people are able to get information that they cannot get from officials, it provides for an effortless flow of data and it is used to store special memories.
However the majority of laws that impede media freedom are found in the penal code, some of the laws that regulate media freedom are the defamation Act chapter 68 of the laws of Zambia, he printed publication act Cap 1, Sedition and the State Security act (chapter 11(4) of the laws of Zambia.
The right to freedom of expression is very cardinal, freedom of expression is needed and it has to be protected, these rights promote good governance and accountability. GIZ Civil Society Participation Programme (GIZ-CSPP) in Zambia is looking forward to working with all the partners on the project that was launched.