LIVINGSTONE Central UPND member of parliament Mathews Jere says citizens are interested in seeing the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill, not the Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Bill, which will curtail civil liberties.
And Jere says there is need for more advocacy on the Bill to ensure it is not enacted because it aims at infringing on citizens’ rights.
In an interview, Jere wondered why government was concentrating more on enacting the controversial Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Bill when Zambians had been waiting for the enactment of Freedom of Information Bill.
He charged that government wanted to enact the Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Bill to ensure there was no transparency and accountability in its activities as the country approached the August 12 election.
“Now, we have started talking about the Cyber Security Bill. What we are supposed to look at, currently, is people have been talking about the Access to Information Bill for a long period of time, but why is it taking too long for it to be enacted? It’s because they do not want transparency and accountability, simple. Something that they know that this can be a tool that they can use in order for people not to access information, they are quick to enact. That is where the danger is. At the moment, where do people access information? From social media, some of the things are brought to light even in Parliament using social media. Ministers have been compelled to either withdraw or issue a Ministerial statement. The public media, the reporting is censored to an extent that it is only about PF Ministers, the President and those in government,” Jere said.
“They do not cover the other stakeholders, even when it comes to NGOs. You will only be covered if you dance to the tune of PF, for example, we saw how (Andrew) Ntewewe was covered going into provinces talking about ‘Bill 10 is good.’ Those people who were saying, ‘no to Bill 10,’ they were never covered. So, this is the more reason we are saying that as we go towards the general election, we should ensure that people have access to information; only then, people will make an informed decision.”
And Jere stressed that more advocacy was needed for the majority parliamentarians to be aware of the Bill’s real agenda and vote against it.
“You know, laws before amending them, they must be wider consultation. The difference is that Bill 10 required a two-third majority for it to pass, this one is simple majority and they have the arrogance of numbers. So, that is the difference. If we don’t do the advocacy now, then in Parliament, it is likely to pass. It is on simple majority. Advocacy is needed to ensure that it does not see the light of day in Parliament. So, these are the issues. In as much as they would want to rush this Bill, which would probably blackout the country so that people don’t get the message, they should be able to think about democracy. If they claim to be democratic, they should hear what people are saying,” said Jere.
“We saw sometime back, they were cameras, which were put on the roads, they said, ‘these were speed cameras…’ What has happened to those? They have just disappeared, but a lot of public resources were used. This is the reason why we need to go out there and explain to people, ‘hold public gatherings.’ You remember what happened when there was that attempt to migrate for VAT to Sales Tax, when people categorically told them that, ‘we can’t do this.’ So, why can’t we do the same because it borders on the freedoms and rights of the Zambian people. Other countries put these rights as first on their agenda. We don’t want to see people being arrested for sharing information because that is the only platform. Already, we have seen how private media houses have been affected.”