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Zambia to introduce tax on internet phone calls

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The Zambian authorities have decided to introduce a tax on phone calls made from the internet. A decision, according to the Zambian government, to protect conventional telecommunications companies. But the announcement goes wrong among the population and several voices are already rising to criticize this measure.

The project of the Zambian government provides for a tax of about three cents, taken daily on phone calls via the internet.

To justify this decision, the spokesman of the government, Dora Siliya, points to the increase in the number of calls over the Internet at the expense of traditional phone calls. According to her, online telephony services such as Skype, Whatsapp or Viber threaten the telecommunications industry and employment with telephone operators in Zambia.

Many activists in Zambian civil society consider it a restriction of freedom. This is the case of Richard Mulonga, the head of the NGO Bloggers, who denounces a deliberate attack on freedom of expression and association. Opposition leader Hackainde Hichilema also reacted and described the new tax as “flying in broad daylight”.

Economic justification

Des accusations rejetées par le ministre zambien des Communications. Ce dernier affirme que cette taxe ne concerne qu’une petite partie de la population. Selon lui, il y a trois types d’acteurs sur le marché des applications mobiles et tous ne tirent pas de bénéfices, explique Brian Mushimba.

« First, yourself. You make these calls via the internet at a very cheap cost. There is an application to help you. And this application that you downloaded for free on your phone makes you this service because the company that created it sells your data. The third player is the government with the telecom companies in the country. They invest heavily in infrastructure: fiber optics, broadband, antennas, to make these calls possible. And they are alone to bear the costs. You use us as a drive belt and you pay nothing to the authorities while using our infrastructure built through huge investments. Internet companies need to sit at the table as we begin to discuss the deployment of 4G. So we can do it together because they benefit from it. »

According to a local study of the ZICTA, which is the Communication Technology Authority, 80% of Zambians prefer to call from the internet. The tax could bring loan of $ 22 million to the state coffers. This bill will become reality within 30 to 45 days, according to the minister.

DRC deems candidacy of former warlord Bemba ‘inadmissible’

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Former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba’s candidacy in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s upcoming presidential elections was deemed “inadmissible” by the country’s election commission on Friday, as opposition groups cried foul.

The commission rejected the candidacy of Bemba, a rival to DR Congo President Joseph Kabila, on the basis that he had been “convicted by the International Criminal Court” in March 2018 and handed a year in prison and a 300,000 euro fine for bribing witnesses.

Bemba’s war crimes convictions were overturned by the court in The Hague and he returned to Kinshasa in August after being acquitted

Bemba said on Saturday that he would appeal the commission’s decision.

“The electoral commission is under full control of the regime,” he told FRANCE 24. “That is why we came to this situation.”

Opposition groups called on Kabila to free up the electoral process and “stop giving injunctions to the election commission,” in a statement signed by Bemba and exiled opposition politicians Moise Katumbi and Felix Tshisekedi.

Overall, the election commission has excluded six out of the 25 candidates who had registered to run in the presidential elections, set for December 23.

In addition to Bemba, the commission has barred three of Kabila’s former prime ministers — Samy Badibanga, Adolphe Muzito, and Antoine Gizenga.

“These exclusions are unacceptable and show once again that the electoral commission is totally dominated by Kabila,” Moise Katumbi wrote on Twitter.

A former governor of Katanga who joined the opposition in 2015, Katumbi said that he had been blocked from returning to the DRC to register his candidacy.

He has been living in Belgium since 2016 and has been sentenced absentia to three years in prison. Considered a fugitive by the Ministry of Justice, he is the subject of an international arrest warrant.

“With the population, the opposition, civil society, our partners, let’s keep up the pressure, refuse to accept these sham elections,” Katumbi added.

Suspicion

On August 8, Kabila, 46, eased months of tension when he signalled he would not stand again for the office he has held since 2001.

He threw his support behind a close ally as the candidate of his political majority — former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is permanent secretary of Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD).

The DRC opposition, which shed blood in protests against Kabila’s grip on power after his mandate ended in 2016, remains deeply suspicious.

It has raised concerns about nuts-and-bolts issues such as the electoral roll and the voting method, and fears Kabila is simply plotting to remain the power behind the throne.

A country of some 80 million people, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has never known a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence in 1960.

Kabila took over from his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who was assassinated by a bodyguard.

His tenure over the vast mineral-rich country has been marked by corruption, inequality and unrest. The watchdog Transparency International ranked it 156 out of 176 countries in its 2016 corruption index.

Bemba lost presidential elections to Kabila in 2006 and was later accused of treason when his bodyguards clashed with the army in Kinshasa.

In 2007, he fled to Belgium, where he had spent part of his youth.

He was then arrested in Europe on a warrant by the ICC for war crimes committed by his private army in the neighbouring Central African Republic from 2002-3, when its then-president Ange-Felix Patasse sought his help to repel a coup attempt.

He was sentenced in The Hague in 2016 to 18 years before the conviction was overturned in June on appeal.

The ICC declared Bemba could not be held responsible for crimes committed by his troops.

The European Union, like the UN and US, is closely following the election buildup.

It has frozen assets and denied visas to a dozen Congolese figures — including Shadary — on the grounds of human rights abuses since the constitutional end of Kabila’s second and last mandate in December 2016.

France football legend Thierry Henry not joining Bordeaux after talks break down

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Thierry Henry will not be the next coach of Bordeaux, with the French club’s president confirming to AFP on Tuesday that negotiations had broken down.

“Yes, we can confirm the end of those negotiations,” Stephane Martin told AFP, following earlier reports in France and England that Henry had turned the job down.

Sky Sports, the channel for whom Henry worked as a pundit for four years before quitting last month, said late on Monday that he had refused the offer to take his first managerial role since retiring as a player.

According to French sports daily L’Equipe, Henry felt that he had not been given sufficient guarantees by General American Capital Partners (GACP), the American consortium expected to take over Bordeaux at the end of September from current owners, the media conglomerate M6.

Despite his lack of experience as a coach, appointing the 41-year-old would have been a remarkable coup for Bordeaux, the six-time French champions.

They are looking for a replacement for the Uruguayan Gustavo Poyet, whose departure from the club is expected to be made official later on Tuesday.

Poyet was only appointed in January and led the club to European qualification at the end of last season, but he was suspended earlier this month after a very public outburst at directors over transfer policy.

Henry, who had been working as an assistant coach to the Belgian national team, met GACP in New York at the end of last week having come to an initial agreement with M6.

According to reports, however, Bordeaux were surprised by his salary demands given his lack of experience as a coach. Reports say he also wanted three new signings before the transfer window closes at the end of this week.

Bordeaux had already been turned down by former coach Laurent Blanc and Remi Garde, another ex-Arsenal player who is now at Montreal Impact in Major League Soccer.

As their search for a successor to Poyet goes on, interim coach Eric Bedouet is set to take charge of the team in their next game, the Europa League play-off, second leg at home to Belgian club Gent on Thursday.

Top Islamic State group official killed in Mali, says France

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France said on Monday it had killed a top official from Islamic State’s affiliate in West Africa in an operation in Mali that also killed another member of the group and two civilians.

The defence ministry, in a statement, named him as Mohamed Ag Almouner and said he was one of the top officials of the Islamic State (IS) group in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). It did not name the second member of the group who was killed.

The ministry said two civilians – a woman and a teenager – were killed in the operation which was carried out on Sunday.

Two other civilians and a member of the IS group’s affiliate group were also injured, the statement said.

The statement expressed regret at the civilian deaths and said an investigation was under way to determine how they got caught up in the attack.

Sunday’s operation involved two Mirage 2000 aircraft, followed up by ground forces.

France has deployed around 4,000 French troops in the West Africa’s Sahel region as part of Operation Barkhane aimed at combating Islamist militants in the region.

ISGS, based on Mali’s border with Burkina Faso, is just one of several jihadist groups who are active in the area.

It is led by Adnan Abu Walid Sahrawi, who was formerly a member of the al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group.

Trump claims Google search results ‘rigged’ against him Exemplaire

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U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google’s search engine of promoting negative news articles and hiding “fair media” coverage of him, vowing to address the situation without providing evidence or giving details of action he might take.

Trump’s attack against the Alphabet Inc unit follows a string of grievances against technology companies, including social media Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc , which he has accused of silencing conservative voices, and Amazon.com Inc, which he has said is hurting small businesses and benefiting from a favorable deal with the U.S. Postal Services.

He frequently berates news outlets for what he perceives as unfair coverage. Google denied any political bias, saying in a statement that its search engine is “not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.”

Trump said in several tweets on Tuesday that Google search results for “Trump News” were “rigged” against him because they showed only coverage from outlets like CNN and not conservative publications, suggesting the practice was illegal.

“I think Google is really taking advantage of our people,” Trump said on Tuesday in the Oval Office. “Google, and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory, and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.”

Facebook declined to comment. Twitter did not comment when asked for a response.

In congressional testimony, both companies have denied engaging in partisan censorship.

Neither Trump nor the White House detailed how or under what legal justification they would use to probe Google.

Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, later told reporters that the White House was “taking a look” at Google, saying the administration would do “some investigation and some analysis,” without providing further details.

Earlier this summer, the new Republican chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Joseph Simons, said the agency would keep a close eye on big tech companies that dominate the internet.

In a previous investigation, the FTC decided that Google was likely justified in developing a search function that harmed other companies.

In June Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat, asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google’s alleged anticompetitive behavior in the online search and advertising markets.

Congressional sources cautioned that it may be difficult for Trump to find a way to probe Google about news search results, and that Congress is unlikely to pass any applicable laws.

U.S. member of Congress Ted Lieu, a Democrat, said in a tweet directed at Trump that such restrictions on Google would violate the U.S. Constitution: “If government tried to dictate the free speech algorithms of private companies, courts would strike it down in a nanosecond.”

Shares of Alphabet closed down 0.8 percent at $1,245.86.

Trump’s criticism of media

While the exact science behind Google searches on the internet is kept secret, its basic principles are widely known to be generated with a variety of factors measured by the company’s algorithms.

The factors Google uses to determine which websites appear first in search results include how often that page is linked to on other sites, the use of keywords, the popularity and respectability of the news site, and personal browsing history of the person conducting the search.

Highly trafficked and cited websites like CNN.com and NYTimes.com, two of the most Trump’s most frequent targets, often appear first in search results.

Trump’s accusation of bias on the part of Google comes as social media companies have suspended accounts, banned certain users and removed content as they face pressure from the U.S. Congress to police foreign propaganda and fake accounts aimed at disrupting American politics, including operations tied to Iran and Russia.

Companies such as Facebook and Twitter have also been pressed to remove conspiracy driven content and hate speech.

Tech companies have said they do not remove content for political reasons.

Some Republican U.S. lawmakers have also raised concerns about social media companies removing content from some conservatives, and have called Twitter’s chief executive to testify before a House of Representatives panel on Sept. 5.

Earlier this month, Alphabet’s YouTube joined Apple Inc and Facebook in removing some content from Infowars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jones was also temporarily suspended on Twitter

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