THE European Union delegation to Zambia says it is extremely important for government not to shutdown the internet during the election period.

Addressing journalists in Lusaka, Tuesday, European Union Ambassador to Zambia Jacek Jankowski said he was happy that government had denied the rumours of shutting down the internet during the election period.

He said the election period was a crucial time and that Zambians needed to have access to information by using the internet.

“It is extremely important in seeing a level playing field and so we are happy that we heard a strong denial by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information that government will not shutdown internet during election period. We hope he means what he said and that he knows what he is saying that there will be no such thing. This is a crucial period and Zambians need to have access to information by using internet. Zambians should be allowed to express their opinions and so, we see the importance of allowing the functioning of the internet during this period,” Ambassador Jankowski said.

He said political parties should ensure that the electoral process was completed in a safe and peaceful environment.

“Elections are a pillar of any democracy which present the people with an opportunity to express their views at the ballot box and to shape the future direction of their country. The people of Zambia expect to cast their ballots in a safe and peaceful manner and we call on all stakeholders to play their roles to make this happen. In this perspective and as a friend of Zambia, the EU calls on all political parties to ensure that the electoral process is completed in a safe and peaceful environment, with the rights and freedoms of all citizens fully respected,” Ambassador Jankowski said.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Jankowski stated that the EU election observer mission would remain on the ground until the end of the electoral process to ensure a thorough assessment of the process.

“The mission has been on the ground since 30 June and will remain until the end of the process to make a thorough assessment of the different aspects influencing the credibility, transparency and inclusiveness of the elections. We will cover from the voting period until the day after elections and this will be presented by the EU Chief Observer honourable Maria Arena (Member of the European Parliament) on 14 August. The final report, which will cover the entire electoral process and provide recommendations for improvements for future elections, will be made available later this year,” said Ambassador Jankowski.

The briefing was attended by Ambassador of Italy Antonino Maggiore, French Ambassador to Zambia Francois Goldblatt, Germany Ambassador Anne Wagner Mitchell, Swedish Ambassador Anna Maj Hultgård and Finnish Ambassador Pirjo Suomela Chowdhury.