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Opinion The rising trend of African leaders meddling with citizens' social media rights

As much as citizens should be held accountable for their words and actions online, that fine line of respecting privacy and a right to expression must be drawn.

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Zimbabwe's Mugabe reads wrong speech at opening of parliament play President Mugabe's government is one of many stifling the rights of citizens online. (Reuters)

President Robert Mugabe led Zimbabwe have put into motion through its Ministry of Cybersecurity a law to  control and monitor Whatsapp groups in the country.

It is being regarded as ‘’The Ministry of Whatsapp” by the locals because users who want to create a new Whatsapp group would have to register it with the cyber security ministry.

Whatsapp group administrators are required to acquire from the Border Gezi University of Cybersecurity Threat Detection and Mitigation, a minimum of Level 1 certification.

Just like many others I see this as a breach of privacy because it totally deprives users of the social messaging platform a right to privacy and freedom of expression.

play Everybody is accountable on the internet. (Salvage77)

The argument that they want to monitor for inciting commentaries, threats of violence and what have you does not justify having access to people’s private conversations.

It was in the news not too long ago about the Nigerian government’s efforts put towards monitoring social media activities bothering on hate speech and anti-government speech  with the intention of arresting offenders.

Kenya’s government in an attempt to monitor hate speeches intended to shut down the internet during its election period back in August 2017, if citizens misbehaved.

In 2016, Uganda, Gambia and the Republic of Congo shut down the Internet access to citizens. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia, the Internet was shut down during periods of unrest in both countries.

ALSO READ: It's been 30 days without internet access in Cameroon

The Kenyan government might shut down the Internet if things go bad during the elections play The Internet and social media's privileges is being threatened by African governments (abc.net.au)


Internet shutdowns tend to do more harm than good, with such a move automatically depriving millions of people their means of livelihood.

The government of these countries including recently Zimbabwe, are justifying their clampdown on social media with the rise of fake news, inciteful propaganda and other rather unpatriotic activities seen to be taking place online.

A bottom line should be drawn with regards to privacy and freedom of expression.

While the citizens should be held accountable for their words and actions, that fine line of respecting privacy must be drawn.

How each government would carry this out will go a long way in earning respect and goodwill from the United Nations and other international civil rights organizations.

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