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Pressure group sues government over monitoring device that "undermines" free expression

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 16 June 2010, the Human Rights Court in Accra, capital of Ghana, will commence the hearing of a suit filed by a pro-opposition pressure group, Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG), asking it to restrain the Ghanaian authorities from installing an Intelligence Signal Management System (ISMS), a monitoring device, that they alleged would stifle the right to free expression.

AFAG is therefore asking the court to suspend this installation until the authorities put in place mechanisms that would ensure strict compliance with the privacy laws in the country.

The writ is demanding that the court declares the installation of the ISMS as "illegal", "unconstitutional" and a violation of the fundamental human rights of the citizenry.

In 2009, the Government of Ghana entered into an agreement with a telecommunication company, Global Voice Group, to install the device on the international gateways of companies engaged in mobile telephony in the country. This, it said, would help minimise the loss of revenue from international calls.

However, AFAG rejected the government's position saying that the device could also be used in tapping into the Short Message System (SMS), online bank accounts and internet communication of all mobile phone and internet users in Ghana.

The National Communications Authority (NCA), the country's Attorney General and the all the mobile telephone operators in the country have been jointly sued by AFAG. Under the agreement, the telephone companies are obliged to submit call data records when demanded by the NCA. AFAG said that this will undermine the privacy laws of the country.

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