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Press Release: Respect for Digital Rights during August 12, 2021 General Elections in Zambia

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a non-profit social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rights and inclusion in Africa. We note that the nation of Zambia will be holding general elections on August 12, 2021 and are concerned about the protection of human rights.

We note from the past that during elections, some African governments have resorted to human rights violations among others, internet disruptions as witnessed in Uganda, in January 2021, violations of media freedoms and blocked access to information. During such times, freedom of expression and access to information are highly at risk through crackdowns on the media and civil society actors, lack of transparency and unreliable information for citizens to make informed voting decisions. Similarly in June 2021, we witnessed internet and social media restrictions in Eswatini during a time of political unrest.

We remind the government of Zambia of the importance of allowing every citizen the right to participate freely in the government of their country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law as provided in Article 13(2) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. 

PIN urges the government of Zambia to be guided by Article 17(3) of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) to ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and candidates to state-controlled media during elections.

In terms of Article 31(2) of the ACDEG, State Parties shall ensure systematic and comprehensive civic education in order to encourage full participation of social groups with special needs in democracy and development processes. Most elections are now being conducted through the use of modern technology such as biometric voter registration systems. As such, people with disabilities and underserved communities must be well educated on these technologies to prevent voter apathy. This will ensure that everyone is included in the use of technology for election processes.

Furthermore, we urge the government to consider the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa in providing access to information and proactively disclosing relevant information for an informed electorate.  

We are cognisant of the importance of a declaration of free and fair elections in any democratic society. To this end, we call for the conduct of elections that is in line with best practices of an enabling environment for all to vote. 

We call on the following:

  • The government must keep the internet on during elections and allow for access to information  
  • The government must educate and encourage the participation of vulnerable groups on the use, if any, of technology in the voting process
  • The government must open up space for the media to perform their mandate
  • The government must proactively disclose critical information to inform the electorate adequately in relation to the electoral process 

Valery Njiaba | Communications Officer | Paradigm Initiative

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