HomePoliticsMisa takes Interception of Communications Bill to ACHPR

Misa takes Interception of Communications Bill to ACHPR

THE Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) has taken the draft Interception of Communications Bill to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) meeting running from May 11-25 in The Gambia.

Making a presentation to the 39th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR, Banjul,

Misa legal officer Wilbert Mandinde told the commission that the press freedom situation in Zimbabwe had not changed.

He urged the commission to continue to put pressure on the government to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights.

“We are concerned that the Zimbabwean government is coming up with an Interception of Communications Bill,” Mandinde said. “The Bill will empower the government to spy into telephone and e-mail messages in what will obviously be a blatant and outright invasion of privacy and an infringement of the right to receive and impart ideas without interference with one’s correspondence.”

He told the commission that the proposed Bill would make it compulsory for service providers to install the enabling equipment on behalf of the state while empowering state agencies to open mail passing through the post and through licensed courier service providers.

“The Bill stipulates that operators of telecommunications services will be compelled to install software and hardware to enable them to intercept and store information as directed by the state,” Mandinde said.

The ACHPR, during a fact-finding mission to Harare in 2002, expressed concern over the suppression of fundamental rights and liberties through laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and recommended that the laws be repealed or amended.

“We note with concern that the legislation has neither been repealed nor amended,” Mandinde said. “We are further shocked that the Media and Information Commission chairperson Tafataona Mahoso has reportedly submitted to government proposals to amend Aippa to regulate the entry of foreign publications into Zimbabwe.

”Based on our experience with this commission, we foresee the banning of foreign publications into the country,” Mandinde said. “The proposed amendments are therefore jarring as they come in the wake of unchallenged reports that the government is reportedly reviewing Aippa with a view to removing offending provisions in the Act.”

* Meanwhile, delegates attending an Eastern and Southern African Media Councils Conference in Bagamayo in Tanzania have pledged their support for the ongoing campaign to establish an independent media council in Zimbabwe.

The delegates at the meeting passed a resolution at the end of the conference which noted that “under universally accepted values, freedom of communication which includes freedom of expression, media freedom and the right to information, are fundamental human rights.”

The conference, which was held in the first week of May, drew delegates from the Netherlands, Tanzania, Lesotho, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya and the World Association of Press Councils among others.

Zimbabwean journalists are currently involved in a process that would see an independent media council being set up to regulate the operations of the media in the country.

Currently the media in the country is controlled by a statutory body, the Media and Information Commission (MIC). The delegates stressed that non-statutory, voluntary and independent media councils were, therefore, integral to effective self-regulation free of government control. — Staff Writers.

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