The main problem with this article is it is confusing several issues. There is no doubt there are issues around cyber bullying as the woman bullied on Facebook shows. It was wrong for trolls to do what they did to this woman. It is unacceptable.
But the court case also illustrates that there is also clearly a move by the law to try and keep on top of regulating what appears online (libel etc has been enforced online and also people have been prosecuted for being abusive).
So there are legal safeguards at least here in the UK around libel. Then there is also the issue of online journalism not living up to the standards of old school journalists.
To be honest, times have changed so much that old school journalism needs to catch up with the times. There are so many resources out there, and it is up to the reader to inform themselves and separate the wheat from the chaff.
If people believe everything they are told on online sites, particularly ones that don’t have a good management system, then it says something about the people believing. And finally there is politicians being attacked online by anonymous contributors. Running all these together makes no sense.
But the main issue with the article is the false comparison of a woman bullied by people on facebook who then took legal action against her persecutors and the idea of gossip or comments anonymous or otherwise targeted at a public figure like the president.
This woman had trolls, ‘cloning’ her social network ID and using it to be abusive. These two things are completely different. The privacy laws for sites such as Twitter and FB are very strict, compared to say, online newspapers, whose owners can always be found and asked to answer for their claims. These trolls were hiding behind those laws. The same can’t be said about bloggers and online publications.
When you go into politics you go in with your eyes open. Politicians are looking for power and hopefully to better the lot of the people they’re supposed to represent.
If you are president of a country you should be big enough to be able to withstand pressure from wherever it comes. If you aren’t you should pack your bags and retire to the farm. Politics is not a game for private citizens nor is it a game for someone who cannot withstand criticism.
Making a comparison between Sata being abused online by people to a private individual being bullied extensively makes absolutely no sense and is in fact exploitative of what the woman went through. She faced real distress and upset as a result of what went on.
Sata is the president. If he is so weak that he cannot take criticism we would all be better off without him. For a newspaper like the Mail which had started to make strides away from being the mouthpiece of government to print an article so pravda-esque is very disappointing.
There is literally no comparison that can be made between a private citizen and a politician. What can be said is if something gets libelous then anyone including the politician can take it up in court – as has been demonstrated a number of times, whether the libel was made on or offline.
There are many other issues that could be addressed – for example the lack of a plural media in Zambia, the need to be able to filter clearly between the wheat and the chaff online, how some anonymous action online can act as a catalysing factor in social change like in Egypt, or the fact that the Ethiopian government have just made a law making use of Skype punishable by prison.
But winging about anonymous attacks on the decision makers in Zambia should not be the top of anyone’s agenda.
I am also afraid that this will harden government’s resolve to clamp down on online publications. I am surprised too that Mr Mukwita used the UK Mail, a trashy newspaper as the basis to make this argument.
The Mail is known for not checking its own facts and in some cases making up stories. Trolls and bloggers are really not the same. This was an attack on a woman on FB and not a story written in an online publication. So one can’t really use that argument to attack bloggers because anyone attacked by an online publication can seek legal recourse.