Democratic Elections in Zimbabwe Require An Open, Accessible Internet

Felicia Anthonio is #KeepItOn Campaign Manager and Alexia Skok is Media and Communications Manager at Access Now. Shutterstock Zimbabwe’s general elections, now into the second day of polling, could be a make or break moment for the country’s democracy, which is already struggling under the weight of alleged corruption and repression of the government’s political opponents. With millions of people heading to the polls for the first time since 2018, the looming threat of an internet shutdown not only jeopardizes freedom of expression and the right to access information, but also threatens the legitimacy of the elections.  Access to the internet is a gateway to a myriad of human and civil rights — from communicating freely with loved ones to accessing educational opportunities, and boosting economic and business activities — so when governments shut it down or restrict it, they’re attacking multiple societal pillars that help facilitate equity, equality, and prosperity — all cornerstones of democracy. Alarmingly, governments across Africa, including Zimbabwe, are weaponizing internet shutdowns to stamp out dissent and criticism, and to take control of national narratives — particularly around elections and during protests.  In Zimbabwe, people have been forced to struggle through concentrated attacks on their online spaces, particularly during political movements. In 2019, when protestors took to the streets against the rising cost of fuel, the internet was cut. The reports that managed to make it out of the country alleged violent crackdowns by security forces against those calling for change. When the internet came back…Democratic Elections in Zimbabwe Require An Open, Accessible Internet