What rights are infringed upon when social media is blocked?
So Zimbabwe just got WhatsApp blocked today on major networks like Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe, ZOL Zimbabwe, Telecel, and Econet, with its national mobile operator TelOne also turning off all internet access for its subscribers, an and well, some rights are being infringed upon here. These are, according to :
- Right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media: which allow a person the freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information, as well as have freedom of artistic expression and creativity. Electronic media of communication have freedom of establishment, subject only to State licensing procedures that are independent of control by government or by political or commercial interests. All State-owned media of communication must be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts or other communications; be impartial; and afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions. Ofcourse there are some unruly users of online platforms that incite violence with their statements of influence, they may advocate hatred or hate speech; and can destroy a person’s reputation or dignity, even breach a person’s right to privacy, but these should be dealt with individually by authorities, not make an entire nation suffer.
- Right to freedom of (virtual) assembly: People don’t have to be in one physical location to assemble. A hashtag is the modern protest. Let them express themselves as one voice. If they are wrong about something, that’s an opportunity for them to stand corrected by the government using the relevant mediums of communication.
- Right to demonstrate and petition: as long as these are peaceful, one can petition some of the decisions being made in a country, whether offline or online.
- Freedom of opinion/thought/conscience: “Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, which includes– a. freedom of thought, opinion, religion or belief; and b. freedom to practise and propagate and give expression to their thought, opinion, religion or belief, whether in public or in private and whether alone or together with others.” (Source: Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013).
This shutdown of internet access on some platfroms will, like we wrote earlier this morning, impact many business that rely on eCommerce for trade, depending on ePayments like mobile money to operate and make revenue. It will also negatively impact business that depend on WhatsApp to make calls to important clients outside the country for example.
We’ll see how this unfolds.