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By Alick Ponje:

MWENDO—Such cases must be avoided

Digital Rights Network (DRN) has urged authorities to refrain from violating the rights of Malawians who express themselves on the internet, particularly the social media.

On the other hand, the organisation has cautioned internet users to refrain from abusing their digital rights by engaging in hate speech and spreading fake news, among other things.

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DRN Co- founder, Joshua Mwendo, said in an interview that, with the current political climate, where some sections of society are contesting the results of the May 21 elections, there has been a surge in terms of people expressing themselves online.

“Digital rights are human rights. They are supposed to be realised and protected, of course, in the context of new digital technologies. On the internet, people should have freedom of expression, data protection and privacy. In fact, they should also have freedom of association,” Mwendo said.

He added that while Malawians enjoy “relative” freedom in terms of expressing themselves, there have been cases where some people have been prosecuted for what they post on the social media.

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According to Mwendo, there is need to balance between freedom of expression and other pieces of legislation which may impinge on such freedom.

“Of course, this does not mean that internet users should abuse others. There have been clear cases where some internet users have perpetuated hate speech. Such cases must be avoided,” he said.

He added that the Cyber Security law which Parliament passed some time back needs to be sufficiently popularised so that Malawians are aware of its provisions and how they can avoid coming into conflict with it.

“In law, they say ignorance is not an excuse. That is why, as we are progressing in terms of internet access, we should be cognisant of the fact that there are those who need to be sensitised to some of the laws which they are likely to break,” he said.

The rights to online privacy and freedom of expression, among others, are said to be extensions of the equal and inalienable rights laid out in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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