Chapter One Foundation v. Zambian Information and Communications Technology Authority
Order Handed Down Expands Expression
- Mode of Expression
Electronic / Internet-based Communication
- Date of Decision
March 21, 2021
- Case Number
- Region & Country
- Judicial Body
First Instance Court
- Type of Law
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Case Summary and Outcome
On March 21, 2022, the High Court for Zambia at Lusaka issued a consent judgment, confirming that the Zambian Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) would not “do any act or make any omission outside of their legal regulatory powers and authority which may inhibit or interrupt the flow of and uninhibited access to information on all available telecommunication platforms under their control and/or regulation where the interest of consumers and their consumer and constitutional rights are threatened”. ZICTA also consented to informing the public within 36 hours of any disruptions of the reason for that interruption.
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression notes that some of the information contained in this report was derived from secondary sources.
On August 12, 2021, Zambia held general elections. In the run-up to the election on August 12, local media reported that the incumbent president, Edgar Lungu, was planning on shutting down access to social media during voting “in an effort to maintain peace and order during the voting period”. Access to internet services was curtailed during the election.
The day after the election, Zambian non-govermental organisation, Chapter One Foundation, approached the High Court, seeking a review of the decision of the Zambian Information and Communications Technology Authority to interrupt internet access.
Judge Charles Zulu signed the Court’s consent judgment.
The Court confirmed the parties’ agreement that ZICTA would not act outside of their regulatory powers in a way that inhibited or interrupted access to information through telecommunication platforms, and if there was inhibition or interruption that ZICTA would provide an explanation within 36 hours.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
As president, Edgar Lungu oversaw a significant decline in democracy. He had obtained authority to run for an unlawful third term of office, and was pushing for constitutional amendments which further threatened the integrity of Zambia’s democracy. The 2021 election was therefore a crucial event in Lungu’s attempt to consolidate power. Although the consent order came after the election had been completed and Lungu’s successor, Hakainde Hichilema was in power, it is still a significant protection of democracy in the country. Commentators described this election as a “social media election” and the use of social media in the campaigns demonstrated the importance of a free media in Zambia’s democracy.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.
Official Case Documents
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