FIVE Civil Society Organisations have asked the Lusaka High Court to preserve the status quo and prevent any prosecutions under the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act no. of 2021 before the determination of the matter in which they have petitioned the court over the law for being unconstitutional.
The CSOs are challenging the constitutionality of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act no.2 of 2021 as it seeks to restrict the right to privacy, the right to freely impart and receive information, freedom of expression, freedom of the media among other rights.
Chapter One Foundation, Bloggers of Zambia limited, Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services (GEARS) Initiative, People’s Action For Accountability And Good Governance in Zambia, and Alliance For Community Action are seeking a declaration that sections 11, 12, 29, 38, 40, 54, 59, 65, 69, 72 and 74 of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act be struck out from the statute books for being unconstitutional.
The NGOs have cited the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions as respondents in the matter.
Chapter one Foundation director Reversed Susan Matale, Bloggers of Zambia executive director Richard Mulonga, GEARS Initiative chairperson Patrick Kaumba, PAAGZ executive director Fumba Chama and ACA executive director Laura Miti argue that the sections in question seek to control the right to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of the media in a manner that is contrary to the limitations allowed by the constitution.
Rev. Matale, Mulonga, Kaumba, Chama and Miti are suspicious that the provisions of the Act have the potential of being abused in order to stifle dissenting opinions, independent views and critical thought.
“If left in their current form, the provisions will have detrimental effects on the participation of citizens in the governance of their country for fear of prosecution under vague laws,” the five stated.
In an affidavit in support of summons for conservatory order, the CSOs have applied for an order preventing the prosecution of people under the Act pending determination of the constitutionality of the provisions.
They said after being assented into law, sections 11, 12, 29, 38, 40, 54, 59, 65, 69, 72 and 74 of the Act had the full force of the law.
“There is nothing preventing the DPP from instituting prosecutions pursuant to the provisions of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act which is subject of the petition,” said the CSOs.
“There is a risk that if the provisions are enforced before this court makes a decision on their constitutionality, citizens will be deprived of their rights contrary to public interest.”