Zambia: Cellular Signals - Dismay Over Possibility of Internet Blackout During Zambia's August General Election

analysis

Cellular providers MTN and Airtel cannot promise that they won't shut down services during the Zambian elections.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Zambia's main opposition party is disappointed that the country's two biggest cellular companies - MTN and Airtel - cannot guarantee that they will not shut down internet access over the 12 August general election.

Opposition parties and civil society widely expect President Edgar Lungu's government to black out the internet and social media to prevent independent reporting, and monitoring of the results. Opposition parties say a blackout could frustrate their efforts to send final campaign messages, to inform their supporters of where and how to vote, and to report incidents of violence, intimidation and electoral irregularities on social media.

Governments also often block cellphone signals to stop opposition supporters from rallying in protest if they suspect the results have been rigged.

MTN told DM168 that the group and its subsidiaries, including MTN Zambia, respected digital human rights, including "the right to communicate, to share information freely and responsibly, and to enjoy privacy and security regarding their data and their use of digital communications".

MTN said if the Zambian government ordered it to shut down...

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