Zimbabwean Government Bans Bulk Text Messaging Service ahead of Elections

Information and media project Kubatana.net says its bulk messaging service has been blocked by the country’s telecommunications regulatory body.

Kubatana, which uses various media tools to enable Zimbabweans to access and share information, discovered that they had been blocked Wednesday, when text messages kept bouncing back.

Amanda Atwood, the project’s content manager, said when she contacted their mobile service provider, Econet, she was told the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) had issued the directive to block the messages.

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TOSpeaking  SW Radio Africa, Atwood said: “On Wednesday when we noticed that our messages were not going through we contacted our international carrier who told us that our upstream (local) carrier Econet, was blocking us as a sender.

“We have been sending out bulk text messages to thousands of our opt-in subscribers for several years now without any problems. “When I phoned Econet, someone in the business development unit said they had received a directive from their regulator POTRAZ to block all bulk messages coming from international gateways. Econet said we were being blocked for political reasons,” said Atwood.

However, when she asked to see the directive, she was told that the instruction had not been ‘communicated formally’.

Coming less than a week before the country’s watershed election, many will see the timing of the ban as an attempt by the ZANU PF controlled regulator to censor the kind of information Zimbabweans receive during this crucial period.

Kubatana said they will be approaching the Communications Ministry over the ban, which they described as “unconstitutional, obstructive, repressive and hostile.

“It is our opinion that as we approach the July poll the Zimbabwean authorities are increasing their control of the media, making the conditions for this election unfree and unfair,” Kubatana further stated.

When SW Radio Africa contacted Econet, this reporter was transferred back and forth six times to departments including business development, the legal team, and public relations, but still could not get a comment.

Source:  SW Radio Africa (London)