Sign up for weekly updates

Legislators pass bill allowing government to spy on telecommunications

(MISA/IFEX) - Zimbabwe's House of Assembly on 13 June 2007 passed the controversial Interception of Communications Bill without amendments despite opposition to some of its provisions by opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) legislators.

MISA Zimbabwe National Director Rashweat Mukundu said the passing of the bill marks yet another sad and retrogressive chapter in the country's unfolding crisis as it has serious implications on the citizens' fundamental right to freely express themselves without any hindrance in the form of the envisaged spying law.

Section 20 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, and the freedom to receive and impart ideas without interference with one's correspondence.

"By passing this bill, let alone without any amendments, the House of Assembly has regrettably and sadly contributed yet another devastating blow to the country's deepening human rights and political crisis, which is being duly recorded by historians and will be judged accordingly by posterity," said Mukundu.

"The future viability and development of the telecommunications sector will also be seriously compromised by this draconian law, considering that Internet service providers will have to bear high costs as they will be expected to install the enabling spying equipment in a country that is experiencing acute foreign currency shortages."

Under the bill, service providers will be compelled to install the enabling equipment on behalf of the government while empowering the chief of defence intelligence, the director-general of the Central Intelligence Organisation, the commissioner of police and the commissioner general of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to intercept telephonic, e-mail and cell phone messages.

The bill, which seeks to empower the government to spy on telephone and e-mail messages, was presented to Parliament on 26 July 2006.

It also proposes to establish a monitoring centre or agency which shall be the sole facility through which authorised interception shall be effected.

Contributing to the debate during its reading stages, Bulawayo South legislator David Coltart, who was elected on an opposition MDC ticket, said the judiciary and not the attorney-general should be empowered to review the exercise of the powers of the minister of transport and communications in the issuing of warrants for interception of communication.

Coltart also argued that the decision on the right to grant a warrant should be the preserve of the judiciary and not the executive.

Latest Tweet:

تستمر السطات في الكويت في استهدافهما لمدافعي حقوق الإنسان من الذين شاركوا في الاعتصامات الاربعة التي تم تنظيمها أما…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.