Monday, August 28th, 2023: The NetRights Coalition has condemned the raid of digital technologies of at least 41 Civil Society actors associated with the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN). The raid, which took place on August 23rd, 2023, was carried out by Zimbabwean authorities, as the country’s citizens voted in presidential, parliamentary, and local elections.
The raided digital technologies include 93 smartphones, 38 laptops, two smartwatches, two modems, one Wi-Fi router, one external drive and other digital gadgets.
In a joint statement, the organizations said that the raid “compromises the safety of the broader ERC and ZESN family, their members, observers, volunteers and partners.”
The NetRights Coalition emphasised that digital technologies are tools for enhancing digital democratic practices, free expression and access to information, particularly during electoral periods. The coalition expressed concern that the raid of these digital technologies stifles free expression online and may be succeeded by privacy breaches and state surveillance.
Cell phones contain sensitive information, including contact details of persons not connected to the raid. The raid violates individuals’ rights to privacy and is an attack to digital democracy in Zimbabwe, and Africa broadly. The raid is in contradiction to Section 57 of the Zimbabwe Constitution which stipulates that “Every person has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have: (a) their home, premises or property entered without their permission; (b) their person, home, premises or property searched; (c) their possessions seized; (d) the privacy of their communications infringed…”
Consequently, the NetRights Coalition calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to return the Digital Technologies to their rightful owners.
We also call on the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold its constitutional mandate in line with Section 61 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression including the freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information.
We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold International Human Rights obligations in line with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Finally, NetRights Coalition calls on the government of Zimbabwe to make those involved in the raid accountable.
About the NetRights Coalition
The NetRights Coalition (NRC) is a pan-African Coalition of Internet Freedom practitioners and activists sharing knowledge and experiences to combat digital rights threats as well as pushing back against digital rights violations.
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Webfala Digital Skills for all Initiative
Bloggers of Zambia (BloggersZM)
GITINYWA Louis (Kigali Human Rights Attorneys)
Africa Cybersecurity Alliance AfroLeadership – Cameroon
Bridges and Hands Foundation
Human Rights Journalists Network Nigeria
Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria
Zaina Foundation (Tanzania)
Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO Ethiopia)
RADDHO( Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme ) Sénégal
Bleeding Pen Inc, (Liberia) www. Bleedingpenlr.wordpress.com
Ladies Empowerment Goals and Support Initiative (LEGASI) – www.legasi.org (NIGERIA)
Media Council of Malawi (MCM)