MISA Regional Secretariat has dispatched a delegation to observe the media and freedom of expression landscape during the Zambian elections in line with the lobby and advocacy body’s mission to strengthen regional solidarity and coordination as defined by its mission and vision statements.
Zambia will hold its elections on 12 August 2021.
The mission, led by the Chairperson of the MISA Regional Governing Council (RGC), Golden Maunganidze, comprises RGC members from Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Based on the findings of the observer mission, MISA will submit its report 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, this 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 in 2022.
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.
The mission to Zambia comes at a time when regional governments are seemingly heightening and tightening the noose on freedom of expression, particularly free expression online.
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.
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.