Zim information minister calls for regulation of the internet, social media

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

RegulationA report in today’s Herald newspaper says Zimbabwe’ Media, Information and Publicity Minister, Webster Shamu, has called for the “appropriate regulation of the internet and new media platforms”. The Minister, according to the report, is calling for this because the potential of the internet to cause strife in society.

The call comes just a week after governments world over met in Dubai for a UN International Telecoms Union (ITU) meeting to discuss a framework to usher in regulation of the internet by governments through the ITU. The proposals were successfully blocked by the US and UK. More on that here.

According to the state owned daily paper, Shamu made the call at a meeting with a Chinese government official.

Here are some of the quotes from the article:

[it is] important to instill in citizens and the journalism fraternity progressive values anchored on clear appreciation of national history and cultural heritage so that they appropriately exercise citizen journalism.

The so-called citizen journalism facet of the new media means everyone has the potential to disseminate information that is…sometimes inaccurate or undesirable, information which may indeed be in total disregard of the national interest and lead to uncalled for internal strife in a country,

The target for the regulation so far is social media and citizen journalism. Social media platforms include websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others like them. Citizen journalism on the internet is basically in the form of blogging on platforms like WordPress, BlogSpot, Posterous and Tumblr as well as independently hosted blogs.

While details of such regulation are not clear from what the minister said, such calls are worrying. The internet, social media, and citizen journalism as it is in Zimbabwe, is far from broken. If anything there’s need for more access, inclusion of more Zimbabweans, and more local content put on the internet by Zimbabweans so it can be relevant to everyday Zimbabweans.

We should not be thinking about regulating we should be thinking of opening it to more creators of content.

image via mideastposts.com



  1. ziv

    even ppl are afraid to comment….we already have self censorship!

    1. Dogstar

      Not really ziv

  2. vaMukanya

    It’s interesting he made these comments after meeting a Chinese govt official. The masters of Internet censorship

    1. Ra’s al Ghul

      It’s just better to fall in line now than to wait until they officially take over the world. Makes for a smooth transition.

  3. chimoio

    The good minister vaida kungo fadza ma zhing zhong.

  4. Anonymous

    This is just setting the stage for elections. Social media is too open and too powerful for their comfort. It is highly effective. At times even abused, like the recent shootings in the US where even big 24-hour news channels like CNN reported incorrect information, with “leads” mostly gathered from the social networks. Very embarrasing but also shows you the other edge of the sword does cut too! Closer to home was last week’s report that John Nkomo had died. In no time at all, even Wikipedia had updated “his death”. Even NewZimbabwe and all sorts of media carried the same news. Where did it start, on social networks.

    I am no proponent for censoring but I do acknowledge the danger that it is. BUT I also know that these guys are saying all this due to the upcoming elections

    Citizen journalism goes against the core of how our media has been heavy-handedly controlled and regulated in Zim. Facebook, twitter and the blogosphere has given us new freedoms and platforms of communication we have never enjoyed. Especially under anonymity. People abuse it. People use it well and informatively. It provides more openess and real access to real people on the ground.

    Something to fear for those who control.

    But, censorship will not work and we will not sit idle if you take away those freedoms.

    Expect Us

    1. Jobho achi kwenya kwenya

      well said, adding to that, the government cannot take away this freedom just because some 0.0000001% of the population is abusing it.

      they should also not follow in the footsteps of the chinnesse just because they have built a bridge or two. we have to assess our own situation in zim.

      If the gvt were to go ahead with censorship, (in a way) they would be following in the footsteps of: Rhodesia, Apartheid and Slavery.

  5. Norman Nhliziyo

    “…we should be thinking of opening it to more creators of content.” Sums up my thoughts. Just incase you do put measures, there is always a workaround, no one controls the Internet, it is a beast that cannot, and will never be tamed

  6. Concern Shoko

    What do you expect from a Minister who has no idea what ICT is…..

    1. BlazJames

      We said dude

  7. Prosper Chikomo

    Get Netone lines and PowerTel dongles!!! That will do the trick!!

  8. macdchip

    Zim needs to monitor and regulate where necessary internet usage. Those that blocked ITU are themselves leaders in internet regulation and monitoring through the tech like DPI, fibre slicing etc.

    In US, NSA has unlimited access to all big companies like google, lbm, microsoft, at&t, go daddy etc which they pull strings from behind the scenes on behave of government directives.

    Thus the same in UK, they have access to all major service providers which play tune to government.

    for experiment, how about opening a .com or .co.uk website and start to post anything which can be deemed sensitive and see how long your website will stay online

    1. Let it Play

      Look at our government’s idea of regulation. Restricting/Closing down anything they feel to be a threat.

      Regulation is necessary but our gvt’s track record speaks for itself, they cannot be trusted. While some countries have lots of radio and tv stations, we have a 1TV station and several radio stations, because of regulations.

      Would you trust these same regulators to monitor the internet?

  9. Anonymous

    Maybe not regulation as such but I wish Zimbabwean news websites would moderate their comments section so that one would not be afraid to have their children read the news. There is just too much profanity on those sites and it seems the website owners do not care once they get their articles out. The editors and or owners should take responsibility for what is on their websites.

    1. tinm@n

      Possible in an ideal world. But too much work in real life. Best you can do is create a word filter. But even with those, people get ffkcng(making point) creative and defeat them. Even worse that it is in our local languages in their different slangs i.e. easy dictionaries or word lists. Best solution would be removing commenting altogether as an owner OR, as a parent, block the websites that concern you

    2. Dogstar

      There is profanity in schools where you kid goes to or from the movie he/she just
      watched with their friends or from the music they were/are happy to listen to at that braai last weekend. Were do you think our kids are going to learn how to say those words? From you ( I hope not!)? We have movies (Godfellas, Shaft, Inglourious
      Basterds, Menace II Society, ), songs(Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross, Eminem), books (…umm kids don’t read these days!). Moderation happens but unfortunately you will only have 2 comments left after wiping out the slate “clean”. I suggest you install Netnanny on your kids computers so that it “blocks” that content. Plus the PG setup on DSTV so that they don’t watch that odd “inappropriate” flick on TV.

      I think you will spend more time in your life regulating your kids than actually living it!

  10. Greg Chiponda

    Regulation of the internet is a necessary evil, everthing else in society is regulated in one way or another so why not the web. In retrospect I believe the right question is how should the internet be regulated and by whom.

    The Internet is currently regulated by ICANN on behalf of the USA government which in effect control the Internet.

    Stripped of all the mystery and mystique, the Internet is an electronic delivery mechanism for messages and information. In that sense, it is not fundamentally different from other electronic communications networks such as radio, television and telecommunications. These other networks are regulated and so should the Internet.

    Ttoday the Internet can be accessed by a young child from the privacy of
    her bedroom at any time of the day or night. In these circumstances, we
    must have some procedures for tackling illegal content on the Internet
    and some mechanisms for allowing end user control of what is accessed on
    the Internet.

    In point form here are some reasons why the internet should be regulated more effectively than how it is currently regulated.

    1. There is harmful content on the Internet.
    2. There is offensive content on the Internet.
    3. There is criminal activity on the Internet.
    4. The amount of information that Internet companies take from users needs to be regulated.
    5. Internet
    Sites Should Be Rated

    6. I could go on and on ….

    1. macdchip

      We Zimbos want to live in a perfect world of internet, a world which no paedophiles, a internet world which have no 419 scammers, stalkers, phishers, money laundering etc.

      Bt in real world, its there pple! Mr Shamu might have narrowed his view to political views but internet is bigger that just anarchism and political oppositions.

      Some of us oppose just because of our different political orientation, our country and its interests are bigger than political parties.

      1. Concern Shoko

        first things first! We have serious problems in Zimbabwe that need to be fixed right now….and the Internet is last on that list. You can’t rush to install boom gates in your neighbourhood when you haven’t paid school fees for your kids. Skewed priorities???

        1. macdchip

          thus why this is a tech site, lets leave those issues to other sites are specialist in those areas…

          Lets talk tech!!!

          1. warrior

            @macdchip:disqus musatya vakomana. its obvious minister varikuitira politics. In Zim, everything is politics. You might lose your livelihood because of these regulations.

          2. Concern Shoko

            inasmuchas i dont like politics, but the fact remains: politics determines what happens everywhere, including the tech world. The same internet we talk about was born our of a politically inspired “project” by the US gvt (ARPANET) So we can not just turn a blind eye to it, especially when a politically inspired discussion has been started. if you feel the discussions is too political for your liking, you are free to skip it and read the next article, you cant dictate or tell pipo wat to discuss and what no to. Only the site admin has those privileges.

            1. macdchip

              Very emotional one guy! If he wishes, the minister has all the government power to implement, and what have you got?

              Sometimes we engage in things which leads to environments heading opposite our desire and wishes.

              The ARPANET was made during cold war, and have since grown to represent different level of human interactions and societies of which politics is one of them.

              Rather than narrowing this to politics view only, why shouldnt we digest this in broader argument and help the minister look at this from all concerned citizens, not jus foot soldiers for political parties.

        2. Dogstar

          Tech makes the world go round. America is not where it is because of oil but tech. Shamu’s views are narrow minded an dare based on political motives. The Arab Spring comes to mind for these guys. Election times. Just like the 2008 elections were cell phones sent out results before they were published, this time, FB, youtube, Twitter, etc will be used to transmit data of the elections (remember the US Election video of the voter trying to vote for Obama but kept getting Romney). If social sites are cut off, it becomes harder to communicate this type of information for the world to see.

          The net has it’s flaws just like the cellphone or the cars we drive or the gas stoves we use to cook but if safety of the society is the primary concern, I will agree to some of regulation such as making ISP advertise to its customers to install appropriate software to block content not meant for kids, etc. for example though this will be more evident in the new address suffixes being released that categories such media (xxx, music, movies, food, etc). Look at tobacco industry and the changes the Aussies are putting in to place. The same can be applied but not effectively stopping people form browsing whatever they want but advising them the ills and dangers of doing something reckless and stupid online.

          So far all regulations are centered on politics and because of that, there will always fierce backlash to regulation of the Wild Wild Internet from the citizens.

    2. tinm@n

      The Internet is currently regulated by ICANN on behalf of the USA government which in effect control the Internet.

      Wrong….there 5 other regulating groups

      You cannot compare the internet with a newspaper or television. It is a totally different thing altogether. Do you know its history? Do you know that governments recognised and endorsed its growth outside the norm of “regulation” as you propose. The result was phenominal growth and the ushering of the information age. It changed business, social interactions and the way we communicate and share information

      The danger faced by your proposed regulation is the question of who will regulate it? Using who’s perceived notion of appropriate rules? It would be naive to say what you think is wrong is perceived as wrong by others too…or the other way round. Some will not allow business with certain people, others wont want political commentary, others will want will believe adult entertainment as a choice or right, others may want all baby pictures removed as it is exposure of children, showing women dessed in a certain way (for those with such religious affirmations)… you did say you could go on. So can others.

      And the result of your brilliant suggestion..? Disagreement and indecision on what should be incorporated from who, what should be left out, division and eventually the breaking up of the internet as we know it. China having its own, USA, Zim, every other country or grouping of countries by culture and religion having “sub-internets”. And there goes your business. Your information sharing and all related freedoms associated with the internet as we know it.

      I suggest you read more… in the current, unregulated(as you want) internet you can even Google how its governed, the evil that is ICANN, the worse evil that is governance by institutions like the UN is recently proposed…ALL FREE INFO

      The idea of rating sites is rubbish, by the way. This isnt some primary school composition

      1. macdchip

        the technology to monitor and regulate the internet in Zim is already there, so get used to, its called Lawful interception on comms. Whether the government chooses to implement or not is a matter of choice.

        Thus why you see up to now there is no BB in here, it failed the interception law. What we should be talking about is how to persuade our gvt not to use a heavy hand on their actions. This is now reality.

        1. Dogstar

          macdchip everything is regulated. Movies, music, your braai you had last time. Nothing goes without some form of control. The question is how much control do we really need so that it makes us or our society a better people? From your points:

          1. FROM who’s perspective?. from robbers who might plan to use internet, buy illegal weapons, or bring in stuff like cocaine. -> Lets ban cellphones. Here in SA they use them to rob the banks. Rape women. Steal other people’s cellphones. Cocaine, drugs? Really think the internet brought cocaine to your doorstep? Very funny. Or better still the corrupt custom officials at the SA-Zim border who look the other way when given a wad of R200 bills so you can smuggle kids across (child trafficking).And that was the internet?

          2. TO who? to your young brothers and sister, or kids, are you ok for your kids to chat with paedophiles and watching pornography online? -> porn was there before internet was given born. So was prostitution and gays and lesbians and nymphomaniacs and satanism and freaks and violent films and wierdos. Plus kids talk to that good uncle who buys you beer but turned out to be nutcase with hidden sexual urges for little ones. Lets ban them too 😀

          5. WTF? google is already rating sites like those for pornography and those selling illegal or copyright materials are being ranged very low, eventually to exile.-> rating does not mean I cannot find it. Zim banned the Scope magazine from Kingstons and guess what? It was on the street and from the guys who came in from SA. Salt and Pepper “Push It” was taken off air by ZBC but hey many copies in Look and Listen. I still download the latest series/movies off the net from sites Google does not even rank at all in their searches.

          This is 2012 going 2013. If Zim is going to try to be like China, it wont work. We go no resources and the skills to implement such type of regulation. Reality or not, The Chinese spend enormous dollars and man power to run their “firewall” and we in Zim we still get bank sites getting defaced by geeks.

          Good luck!

          1. macdchip

            there is nothing new under the son, you are right Dogstar! My point was instead of throwing unnecessary tantrums here and at the said minister, why not engage in a meaning way.

            Wether we like it or not, the internet will eventually be regulated in Zim like any other country in the world.

        2. tinm@n

          Lol.Google rating searches ISNT internet regulation. Regulation as proposed is not just site-wide but across the whole internet service, across infrastructure on a national/global/ or other scale.

          1. macdchip

            then you have a narrow mind of how things works on internet. l mentioned google because US government and copyright industry knows very well that if the leaders on internet are whipped into line, everybody else falls into line else well.

            Tell me how many times you do not use search engines when looking for infor on net

            1. tinm@n

              Lol. Yeah am pretty much clueless…

              Moving on…

              Google rating still isnt internet regulation. DMCA law is regulation. In fact, technically, Google doesnt rate. Google Ranks…even if that were it, its not regulation

              1. macdchip

                lm not into words clarification, l will leave that to academics and purist! At the end of day if you search some US government in tandem with copyright industry thinks it shouldnt be high visible and found with Google search and other popular sites, it jus achieve the same goal, that is to regulate what pple can or cannot easily find.

                Regulating can determine how information is going to be available. ls it going to easily available or not, the technicality of doing it wether by page ranking, totally banning sites, or jailing the providers does not really really matter to the user.

      2. nyacent

        i like the way u argue man…

  11. AmaiZim

    Zanu are scared of the truth and being the control freaks they are, they cannot tolerate freedom of thought, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.

    What’s more, they have an office on two floors in Harare filled to the brim with computer screens and people paid to work Social networks. In addition, they have assistance from the Chinese who also act as scribes working for Zanu.

    My call to the freedom loving techno people in the world is.

    Join us in liberating our county from this murderous genocidal military dictatorship.

    Have a look at herald.co.zw, sundaymail.co.zw, talkzimbabwe.com and attack them and trash them in the very same way that they attack our freedom of thought, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.

    The peoples victory is certain

    1. Dogstar

      Ummm AmaiZim, this is a tech site by the way. Not some place for you to spearhead some political ideas. Nobody is going to attack those websites because they do have a right to publish whatever they want just like you want to say whatever you want. You are now asking us to “regulate” them (ie DoS attacks, deface, etc) yet we are discussing about not wanting to be regulated. If you dont want them, dont read them. Try news.google.com.

      Good luck with your war…….

      1. Concern Shoko

        The truth will always be the truth…whether on a social, economic or political front. This is a politically inspired proposal by the Minister, so I don’t see any reason you want to hide from politics.

        1. macdchip

          and the truth is internet will be regulated in Zim like any other country wether yu are agree to it or not.

          1. Concern Shoko

            I hav no problem with that, as long the regulation don’t suppress us like the Chinese r doing to their citizens.

            1. macdchip

              You see! Now we are talking, that is the message we need to engage the minister. We should be asking him how restrictive is he proposing and help shape up and contest were we differ.

  12. webcrawler

    Shamu ngaadzikame, haana zvaanoketa

  13. BlazJames

    I signed the petition by Google for a free and open internet. It is worrying that countries who are for sensorship are repressive countries. Countries who do not want people to hear the other side of the story