MISA-Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) say the revised Interception of Communications Bill is no different from the original draft that
was thrown out by legislators in October.
Misa says the Interception of Communications Bill, 2006, even in its revised form, is a retrogressive piece of legislation that has no place in a democratic society.
It says the Bill is an illustration of government’s determination to criminalise matters that should ordinarily be dealt with in civil courts.
In October, the Parliamentary Legal Committee, chaired by MDC legislator Professor Welshman Ncube, sent back the Bill to its authors for revision after making an adverse report on it.
In an analysis of the revised Bill, Misa-Zimbabwe said it still carries unconstitutional provisions that threaten citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy, freedom of conscience, expression and association.
“It goes without saying that the negative aspects of the proposed law outweigh the positive ones. The Bill fails to disclose the solid objective behind the proposal for interception of private communication,” an analysis carried out by the media freedom advocacy group last week said.
Misa said the consolidated version of the Bill still attempts to overturn a Supreme Court ruling in favour of the Law Society of Zimbabwe made in 2003 against the Communications minister and the Attorney-General.
In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Post and Telecommunications Act from which the current Bill was cloned, saying that freedom of expression includes freedom from interference with correspondence be it electronic or postal.
Misa-Zimbabwe says the Bill makes very little provision for citizens to respond to the allegations that led to warrants being issued against them.
That is contrary to the principles of natural justice, it says, which require that both parties to an issue must be given a fair chance to present their respective accounts. Under the proposed law, private, confidential and personal information may be intercepted and abused by the system.
“The Bill is also flawed in its failure to provide for compensation or damages in cases of the issuance of wrongful or malicious warrants,” Misa says. “The protection granted to authorised persons is unjustifiable,” Misa says.
Human rights lawyer, Otto Saki of ZLHR, said on Wednesday although the consolidated version attempted to incorporate input from civil society, there was nothing to celebrate.
The reasons for intercepting and monitoring communication still remained too wide, he said.
“There is nothing new and nothing to celebrate. Some provisions are still the same and subject to abuse by people assigned by the minister to monitor and intercept communication between individuals,” Saki said.