Aug 5, 2013

Asking the right questions

Last month two Zambian online publications most critical of the government were victims of targeted attacks which made them inaccessible to users within the country. This set off a cat and mouse game between one of the publications and those said to behind the attack. Multiple proxies were put in place to circumvent the blocks. It’s still ongoing.

From the outset the general consensus has been that the government is behind the blocking though officials have neither confirmed nor denied the allegations. In recent months our Vice-President and other cabinet members have categorically stated that they would be cheered if the publications were effectively killed off due to the negative reporting of the government. So, it’s not a leap for people to accuse the government of carrying out those threats.

Much of the outcry has been about censorship. Yet there’s an issue that very few people are talking about – the legal framework. If indeed the government is behind the blocking of online publications what legal framework have they used? Is there a signed court order that gave them green light for the action? If so, what case was built to convince a judge that taking down the sites was justifiable?

These are very important questions to ask because the answers are telling of our government’s rationale and respect for the law. There is an assumption that this action is simply targeted at clamping down on publications who don’t conform to the government’s will. This may be true, but I really think we ought to asking about due process. Was it followed? If it was, then the government shouldn’t have a problem sharing this information and deflecting some of the criticism. If not, then we have an even bigger problem on our hands.