Sunday, November 28, 2021
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Media freedom under severe strain in Southern Africa


…as Zimbabwe uses
spyware to monitor telecoms


There seem to be
consensus among countries in Southern Africa to stifle free speech and media
freedom, making the need for vigilance all the more critical, the Media
Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe director Tabani Moyo has said.

Speaking at a virtual
meeting with members of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights
(ACHPR) recently, Moyo said there was a move towards repression of the media in
the region.

“There is a regional
consensus to throttle online expression as per the Maputo Resolution of Sadc
Heads of State which saw the proliferation of fake news regulation in Zimbabwe,
Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Eswatini and Namibia.

He said there were
several instances of violation of free expression and media freedom in many
members of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc).

“As we commemorate 30
years of the enactment of the Windhoek Declaration on a free press, we note an
increased attack on journalists while they are doing their job. I bring to your
attention the situation in Mozambique is quite fragile, and journalists that
went to cover a certain province having been flown by government were attacked
by insurgents, firing live ammunition thereby exposing them to great danger.

“Secondly, the
Mozambique as a government must be brought to account for a journalist who has
gone missing for more than a year now; Ibrahim Braco. The last text message he
sent was that he had been surrounded by soldiers. As we speak, he is yet to
return,” Moyo said.

He said in the year
2020, a total of 52 cases attacks and imprisonment of journalists had been
recorded in Zimbabwe.

“Journalists like
Hopewell Chin’ono have been arrested twice for investigative work while Mduduzi
Mathuthu is undercover after having exposed the challenges pertaining to
corruption including (by) the members of the first family,” Moyo said.

He also said privacy
rights were getting increasingly under attack as governments increased their
attempts to control what people do and say on the cyberspace.

 “The right to privacy is under attack in
Southern Africa specifically Zambia has enacted the Cyber Security and Cyber
Crimes Act which ha chilling effects of expression, media and access to
information. Zimbabwe is in the process of doing the same; the bill is
currently in parliament and both the bill (in Zimbabwe) and the act in Zambia
fall below the bar defined by the principles of the declaration as per revisions
of freedom of expression and access to information of the ACHPR.

“Recently, Zimbabwe
also enacted an executive order SI 95 of 2021 called Telecommunication Traffic
Monitoring Systems Regulations that intensifies monitoring of voice calls
without judicial oversight, without any mechanism of ensuring that the right to
privacy by all means is upheld as defined by the ACHPR frameworks,” he said.

On the use of software
to monitor people’s telecommunications, Moyo said this was being done in a
manner which largely ignored fundamental rights.

“The other issue is the
procurement and use of spyware by governments in Southern Africa. A recent
study by the University of Toronto Lab, dictated that there are three Southern
African countries namely Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia that are applying the
Circles spyware that compromises the right to privacy of mobile phones and
telecommunications without any frameworks being in place. And these by the way,
also violate the framework as defined by the declaration as per its revision.

“There is a rise in the
number of laws that are emerging in Southern Africa that violate the framework
of the commission namely Zimbabwe revising broadcasting regulations, Zambia
enacting media practitioners laws; the same with Botswana all these fall far
short of the standards set by the framework,” said Moyo.

He urged the commission
to do more to hold to account member states that trampled rights to free speech
and privacy through unmitigated deployment of spyware and attacks on the media.

“The Commission brings
to account members of the Sadc community that are attacking journalists to
ensure that the safety and security of journalists is paramount at any given

“The regulation of
cyber security and data protection is in sync with the framework of the
Commission. The media should be considered as a strategic partner in the
development agenda of the Southern Africa region. Take a stand against member states
that are promulgating laws that are in violation of the right to privacy and
rights to expression as defined in the regulations.

“There are five members
states of Sadc that are going for elections; the media will be under attack,
will be under siege in Angola, South Africa, Zambaia, Madagascar and
Mauritius,” Moyo said,






TellZim News is the leading news organization in the Southern region. It provides candid, balanced and timely news from the communities. Keeping it real. Committed to tell Zimbabwe.

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