Across the globe, innovations in technologies have facilitated communication and free expression, enabling anonymity, rapid information sharing, and cross-cultural dialogues. At the same time, technological developments have increased opportunities for State surveillance and intervention into individuals’ private communications. Surveillance threatens both an individual’s freedom to express themselves and their right to maintain a private life and private communications.
This was the core message at the side event of the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council’s 23rd session, hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Privacy International and the Association of Progressive Communications which sought to address some of the challenges in promoting privacy and freedom of expression in light of new means and modalities of surveillance and technological advances in communications.
Landmark Report Highlights a Human Rights Perspective on State Surveillance
The event followed a presentation by the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom on expression and opinion, Frank La Rue, who delivered a landmark report at the UN Human Rights Council. Mr. La Rue’s report is clear: State surveillance of communications is ubiquitous, and such surveillance severely undermines citizens’ ability to enjoy a private life, freely express themselves and enjoy other fundamental human rights. The report marks the first time the UN has emphasised the centrality of the right to privacy to democratic principles and the free flow of speech and ideas.
The Case of Zimbabwe: New Constitution, New Opportunities, and New Threats
The effects and pervasiveness of State surveillance in Zimbabwe are very real, yet the digital age poses both challenges to individual human rights and opportunities for positive steps to safeguard individuals’ privacy and communications. Zimbabwe’s new constitution for the first time includes articles that aim to protect the rights to expression, assembly, association, freedom of arbitrary searches and prevent unlawful entries into their homes, premises or property. While the digital age has ushered in an era of information sharing and communication on an unprecedented and global scale, these troves of information are more than ever targets of government surveillance and collection. Protecting individual human rights to freedom of expression, opinion and privacy is more urgent than ever for Zimbabweans and people across the globe.
Access The Forum’s Reports here:
Are privacy and expression protected in Zimbabwe_
Communications & Political Intelligence Surveillance on Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe – Research Report
Implications of Zimbabwe’s Cyber Crime Bill Legal, Policy, Ethical and Technical implications of Zimbabwe’s proposed Cyber Crime Law