Advocacy for freedom of expression in Zambia has been part of the media debates in the country since the 1970s. A number of researches reveal that many incentives to promote freedom of expression and press freedom exist in Zambia. Little research however, has been done on the possible contribution of the Internet to the promotion of freedom of expression in Zambia. This study therefore, is aimed at examining the role that the Internet plays in the promotion of freedom of expression in Zambia. To generate important results, the study has examined five thematic issues, namely; 1) the relevance of online publishing to freedom of expression; 2) advantages of the Internet vis-à-vis the mainstream media; 3) restrictions that hinder bloggers from communicating freely; 4) the future of freedom of expression in Zambia vis-à-vis the Internet; and 5) the relevance of the journalism curricula at university and college levels.
This study has adopted a mixed method approach as a research strategy. Principles of ethnography, interviews, questionnaires and document analysis have been blended to come up with the rich data presented in the study. Data from interviews and ethnography came from one-to-one talk and/or systematic participant observation with bloggers, participants of the blogs, editors of the mainstream media (public and the private radio, TV and newspapers) and a random selection of members of public from Lusaka, Zambia. Data from questionnaires and document analysis came from randomly selected individuals and documents that I thought possessed information that I wanted. The data from these research tools was assessed within the context of literature review and the analytical framework that was adopted from Habermas public sphere theory. The research was conducted in the months of June, July and August 2011 in Lusaka, Zambia.
Based on my analysis and research results, the study reveals some advantages that the Internet has in the promotion of freedom of expression. This study also highlights some factors that hinder the achievement of this aspect such as the poor curricula in university and college education and a lack of a reliable and fast broadband connection to enable people to blog fast and with ease.
By and large, my analysis reveals a weak or lack of political will to promote the Internet for freedom of expression as a major hindrance to the development of citizen journalism in Zambia. Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Internet media combines sound, video, text, audio and has the ability to archive information making it a powerful tool for information retrieval and dissemination.