Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 July 2016, 15:07 GMT

Critical website blocked for four days in Zambia

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 27 June 2013
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Critical website blocked for four days in Zambia, 27 June 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/51e7a4a98.html [accessed 26 July 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Cape Town, South Africa, June 27, 2013 – A private website that documents alleged Zambian government corruption has been blocked in the country since Monday, its editor told CPJ. The Zambian Watchdog's Lloyd Himaambo has said that the website's staff believes the authorities are responsible for ordering the blocking.

A partial screenshot of the site.A partial screenshot of the site.

Internet and mobile service providers blocked domestic access to the Zambian Watchdog, a site that is registered out of the country but publishes content by Zambian journalists and editors, Himaambo said. The editor told CPJ that access to the site was possible only via one of the country's three cellphone networks and that traffic to the website had been reduced by two thirds.

Staff at the Watchdog believe the government is behind the blocking because of its previous efforts to silence the site. It is not clear if the government urged Internet service providers to shut off access or used other means.

In August 2012, Zambia's Minister of Tourism called for the banning of the Watchdog, saying that the website's critical coverage could affect the country's image in the lead-up to the U.N. World Tourism Organization meeting in August 2013, which Zambia is hosting, according to news reports. The website came under an even heavier attack by government officials in September 2012. News accounts reported that President Michael Sata had ordered government agencies to explore ways to block access to the site, and that Zambian Attorney General Mumba Malila was working on a law to restrict online media.

News accounts also reported last year that the Zambian government had engaged hackers to destroy online media, including the Zambian Watchdog.

"In September 2011, Zambians voted Michael Sata's Patriotic Front into power and celebrated his commitment to end corruption and promote Zambian development. But in the past 12 months, we have witnessed a worrying trend of efforts to intimidate and control the media, and heavy-handed policing of opposition gatherings," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. "No meaningful development is possible if people cannot air alternative views."

Himaambo told CPJ that despite having some access, the site's editors were unable to update the website. The staff had moved the site to a new, secure https address (https://zambianwatchdog.com), but feared that readers would have no way of knowing the new address. Himaambo said the loss of traffic threatened the financial sustainability of the site.

CPJ's calls and messages left with the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority were not immediately returned.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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