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Zambian President rejects constitutional changes that promote Internet freedom

The President of Zambia Michael Sata recently rejected a revised draft of the constitution that would have set up government limitations on its ability to regulate online media, according to IT Web Africa.

Online media is a popular way for individuals around the world to get their news. Be it an independent blog, an established news outlet or simply someone who has an opinion they would like to share on social media, there are numerous ways that information is transmitted online today.

For governments, the Internet has emerged as a tool for many critics to express their opinion, and one that has been the cause of headache for many. In China, the government blocks citizens from accessing news outlets that have reported on China is a negative light, while in the U.S. extensive surveillance practices have been used to spy on anything from foreign leaders to human rights NGOs, based on the Edward Snowden leaks.

Zambia blocks reforms
Recently, the Zambian delegates from the government, NGOs, media houses and lawyers came together to draft what they hoped would be reforms to the constitution that would promote online freedom throughout the country. The ruling party, the Patriotic Front continues to threaten to shutdown online media organizations, which is among the reasons why the new clauses were drafted.

The reforms would prohibit the Zambian government from controlling or interfering with anyone who broadcasts, produces or circulations information through any medium. Further, the government could not politically on any electronic and broadcasting mediums. Finally, individuals would be free to express their opinions online without fear of government penalization.

Unfortunately, the president rejected the clause because he felt that the country already had one that worked.

"We don't need another constitution. We already have a functional constitution and this is why we are running as a country. We have no constitutional crisis," he said according to the news source.

Unfortunately, many journalists have been arrested and taken to court over what they have published in the past.

Global Voices Advocacy reported that the government is currently in the process of drafting a new bill that would be aimed at cutting down on Internet "abuse and cyber crime." However, others are concerned that the law will be used to legitimize intimidation practices that the government currently employs to silence critics within the country.

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