Misa observes Zambia poll amid media right clampdown

By Nkosana Dlamini

Media based regional lobby, Misa has sent representatives to Zambia to observe the media and freedom of expression landscape during the neighbouring country’s elections.

Zambians troop to polling stations this Thursday to elect their next leaders.

In line with the lobby and advocacy body’s mission to strengthen regional solidarity and coordination as defined by its mission and vision statements, the eight-country media NGO has sent a delegation led by the Chairperson of the MISA Regional Governing Council (RGC), Golden Maunganidze.

The mission comprises RGC members from Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

In a statement, Misa said it will submit the observer mission’s findings and recommendations to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, the African Union and United Nations.

In addition, said the group, the mission will also inform future observer missions and lobby and advocacy efforts ahead of elections in the region, starting with Lesotho which goes to the polls next year.

“Furthermore, MISA will use this mission to meet with other like-minded organisations operating in Zambia to strengthen regional coordination and networking to entrench freedom of expression, media freedom, democratic internet governance and privacy in the region.

“Meetings with Zambian government officials are also planned,” Misa said.

The mission to Zambia gets more meaning in light of recent attempts by regional leaders to clamp on freedoms of expressions among citizens with online users most targeted.

Recently, the Zambian government enacted the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act, which has been described as having a “chilling effect on freedom of expression, media freedom and Zambians’ right to privacy”.

Similar laws are being enacted across the region.

Furthermore, Zambia is one of the countries in the region that is yet to enact an access to information law.

Said the media group, “This raises the need for organisations such as MISA, to continue engaging the Zambian government with the hope of improving the freedom of the media and information landscape in that country.

“In that regard, MISA’s elections observer mission to Zambia will serve as a platform for evidence-based lobby and advocacy.”