OBSERVERS have lashed out at Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu for proposing to censor the Internet saying the move was a Zanu PF ploy to further stifle dissemination of information in a democratic society.
Report by Everson Mushava Chief Reporter
Chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Communication and Information Technology, Settlement Chikwinya, said Shamu’s intentions reflected Zanu PF’s political position as opposed to a democratic stance of any progressive Zimbabwean.
“Minister Shamu should be speaking the opposite of what he is saying if he is to show any respect or semblance of democracy,” Chikwinya said.
In a meeting with Deputy Minister of the State Counsel Information Office of China Qian Xiaoqian, who is in the country for a familiarisation visit, Shamu said there should be some form of control of the Internet and other social media platforms because they had potential to cause strife.
“However, it is also important to note that, if not wisely utilised and appropriately regulated, these platforms can be a cause of strife in society,” Shamu told the State-run Herald newspaper on Monday.
“The so-called citizen journalism facet of the new media means everyone has the potential to disseminate information that is sometimes inaccurate or undesirable — information which may indeed be in total disregard of the national interest and lead to uncalled for internal strife in a country.”
Chikwinya said: “China is a secretive or surveillance society promoting a one-party state regime. Zimbabwe is a multi-
party democracy and people must express their views.”
He said Shamu should be concentrating on how to promote Internet access, rather than controlling it.
Media consultant and political analyst Ernest Mudzengi said there was nothing wrong in regulating the Internet to prevent acts like cyber crime and child pornography.
“There is nothing wrong in regulating the Internet,” he said. “The problem is when the controls affect dissemination of information.”
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said Shamu’s remarks reflected Zanu PF’s panic ahead of elections.
“They have a dilemma of regime change similar to those that happened in North Africa,” Rusero said.
“For a party that will be celebrating 50 years next year, regulating the Internet will be driving in reverse. Zanu PF should move with time and also introduce a website for the party.”
Zanu PF’s fears of an Arab-style unrest resurfaced in the resolutions made at its just-ended conference in Gweru where the party lambasted the West for supplying information communication technology (ICT) gargets to fuel political unrest similar to what happened in North Africa and toppled governments there.
The use of social media platforms triggered political unrest in North Africa that dethroned Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali last year.
According to their resolutions, Zanu PF appreciates the use of social media, but is worried it could be abused.