During the General Elections held on 12th of August, 2021, there was a national shut down of internet and social media platforms that caused unrest among many citizens in Zambia. Following this event, the Patriotic Front Facebook page published an article with a press statement from the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) stating that the authority does not know what caused internet intermittent failure, and they could not speculate or comment.
The fact checking process has determined as misleading the claim by the Patriotic Front that the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) had commented that the authority did not know what caused internet failure during elections. As a regulatory body responsible for the ICT Sector in Zambia, ZICTA is mandated to regulate the provision of electronic communication services and products in Zambia; provide for a national frequency and numbering plan; and protect the rights and interests of consumers, service providers, suppliers, and manufacturers. Going by these guidelines, the Chapter One Foundation commenced legal proceedings against ZICTA, under Case Number 2021/HP/0955 for the court to make a determination regarding, among others, the cause of the said intermittent internet availability on the 12th and 13th of August 2021. Contained in the letter by ZICTA that was shared by the Patriotic Front in the article on Facebook, the Authority stated that it was aware of the intermittent internet availability which resulted in unavailability of some services from August 12 to 13, 2021. ZICTA further mad reference to the active court case with the Chapter One Foundation and makes emphasis that due to the court action, the Authority is constrained to comment on the matter. In accordance with the statement by ZICTA, the fact checking process has taken into consideration the aspect of contempt of court, which is the offense of being disobedient to or disrespectful toward a court of law and its officers in the form of behavior that opposes or defies the authority, justice, and dignity of the court. During court proceedings, an individual or the parties involved are restricted from giving out or commenting on any issues that are actively on going as this has the potential to jeopardize the credibility and ruling of the court. It is under this guidance that ZICTA clearly stated in the letter that the authority is constrained to comment on the matter. While it is true that ZICTA could not speculate or comment on the internet shut down on the 12th and 13th of August 2021, the claim by the PF is misleading as the PF misquoted the authority. ZICTA acknowledges that there was internet interruption, but they did not state that they did not know what caused internet failure during elections. The article has high potential of wrongfully implicating ZICTA.