BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
ZIMBABWE has been ranked among the world’s three countries with the most restrictive social media policies, especially during elections.
A report by cybersecurity company, Surfshark on internet connectivity said other countries that had blocked internet amid political turmoil in 2022 included Burkina Faso and Kazakhstan.
Surfshark said the internet slowdown experienced during the launch of opposition Citizens Coalition for Change campaign rally in Highfield, Harare, on Sunday led Zimbabwe to join the world’s league of leading internet censors.
“It is the third internet disruption incident in Africa this year, after events in Burkina Faso,” Surfshark said.
“Africa continues to be the most internet-censored intensive continent across the globe, and was responsible for half of the cases last year.
“All three internet disruption cases in Zimbabwe recorded by the social media censorship tracker are related to political protests.”
In January 2019, authorities shut down the internet in the whole country during protests over fuel price increases.
This was followed by another shutdown in 2020, where connectivity speeds were limited around the time of planned opposition rallies.
In 2021, social media or complete internet shutdowns were recorded 19 times in 17 countries in the world, affecting approximately 250 million people.
“Africa has become the most censorship-intensive continent across the globe, responsible for 10 (nearly 53%) of the cases last year. In total, 32 out of 54 countries in Africa have blocked access to social media platforms since 2015 and the region’s shutdowns are also the most politically-heavy,” Surfshark said.
During Benin’s legislative election in 2019, there was a worrying trend of election related internet shutdowns.
In 2020, Access Now’s #KeepItOn coalition documented 155 shutdowns in 29 countries in the world, including 10 in Africa.
Between 2020 and 2021, the Internet Society’s data insight tool, Pulse recorded about 98 internet shutdowns.
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