Constitution Watch 2-2019 -Internet Shutdown.doc - Constitution Watch 2/2019 Internet Shutdown 19 January 2019 CONSTITUTION WATCH 2/2019[19th January

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Constitution Watch 2/2019 Internet Shutdown 19 January 2019 CONSTITUTION WATCH 2/2019 [19th January 2019] Internet Shutdown In this bulletin we shall examine the legality of the Internet shut-downs against the background of the Constitution, international law and the Interception of Communications Act. On the 15th January, the second day of a stay-away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, all Internet services across the country were switched off under government instructions. Econet, the country’s largest mobile telecommunications operator and Internet service provider [ISP] , issued the following statement to its subscribers: “Further to a warrant issued by the Minister of State in the President’s Office for National Security through the Director-General of the President’s Department acting in terms of the Interception of Communications Act, internet services are currently suspended across all networks and internet service providers. We are obliged to act when directed to do so and the matter is beyond our control . ’’ Other ISPs issued similar messages. Service was restored, then shut down for another day, and now has been restored again, though most social media sites remained blocked. The Constitutional Guarantee of Freedom of Expression Section 61 of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression which, it says, includes: “freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information”. It is one of the most precious of all human rights because, together with freedom of association, it forms the bedrock of democracy. Freedom of expression is not absolute, however. Section 61 of the Constitution itself says it does not extend to incitement to violence or to hate speech. And section 86 goes on to say that a law may limit it and other freedoms so long as the limitation is “fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.” In deciding whether a limitation meets this test, one must consider, among other things, whether the limitation imposes greater restrictions on the freedom than are necessary, and whether the limitation’s objective may be achieved by less restrictive means [section 86(2) of the Constitution].
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