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Zambia's Intelligence Agency Rates Watchdog Website as “Most Influential”

Citizen news website, Zambian Watchdog, has received “endorsement” from the most unlikely source, the Zambia Security and Intelligence Service better known as the Office of the President (OP) which has described it as the most influential news source in the country.

A story on the Zambian Watchdog website which normally receives tips from a variety of sources, most of which turn to be true, quotes a leaked monthly intelligence report saying that its popularity is due to the critical stance it takes on the current government and the up-to-the-minute latest news coverage found on the website.  The leaked report cannot be verified.

Zambian Watchdog logo

The website, which has been embroiled in a war of words with the Patriotic Front (PF) government, in office since September 2011, was once hacked, allegedly by government agents. The story reads:

The report shows that the Watchdog is usually the first to break news on any event in Zambia and that the news reaches the four corners of the country within minutes of being published on the site due to internet on mobile phones.

The story also says:

MPs are said to be using the Watchdog as a research facility. The MPs sit and read each and every comment passed on the site and some of them use the comments they see on the site to go and debate in parliament. They adopt the comments as their own thoughts. A number of MPs have assigned assistants, in some cases their children to read and summarise the comments on the Watchdog for them.

As to who accesses the website, it says:

The survey further shows that most civil servants and other workers in government offices start their working day by checking what is on the Watchdog. A lot of people are said to be printing articles from the site and giving tho[s]e who have no access to the Internet or those with slow internet, print to go and read at home. The report says that almost every government computer from State House to Luwingu that has internet shows on its browser history that someone was on the Watchdog.

Quoting Google Analytics, a tool that measures website accessibility statistics, the story said:

For example, of the 1,264,690 people who visited the Watchdog in the last five days, 831 478 were browsing from Zambia while 88,430 were from UK, 76,818 from USA, 40,478 from South Africa, 20,317 from Namibia, 18,360 from Israel, 10,963 from Australia, 9,368 from Canada, 8,071 from Botswana. Other statistic are: Germany 6,919, China 6,328, Nigeria 6,248, Russia 5,610, Kenya 5,01, Netherlands 4,051, Denmark 3,566, Italy 3,411, France 3,385, Switzerland 3,291, Tanzania3,181, Norway 3,083, India 3,036, Belgium 2,652, Zimbabwe 2,441, Japan 2,300, Malaysia, 2,244, Ethiopia2,061, United Arab Emirates 1,976 Congo [DRC] 1,921

Readers’ comments varied from praise to ridicule. Pankolobwato had this to say [the site does not have permanent links for individual comments]:

I’m proud of these stats and growing. Guys keep printing these for your relatives. We need our fellow citizens literate or not to KNOW who’s who in the zoo. lastly a suggestion to ZWD, please have atleast three of your leading articles in 3 or 4 languages so my grand mother in the village can also be informed. Viva Watchdog for filling the space left by[the Post owner, Fred] mmembe

A contrary view by a reader calling himself Bronze read:

most useless online publication in the History of Zambia ZWD….Sata has collapsed in Nalolo, Fisher to become [Central Bank] Governor, Zambia will not sell the Euro-Bond because of poor governance record……and many more uselessness. jst ask me i will tell u more. 20% facts…yes yes we do read ZWD every second hour to laugh about your lies and foolishness……

Zambian Watchdog has faced threats of closure from the government. Two government ministers were recently caught on camera browsing the site during an official meeting.

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