Zimbabwean journalists are set to face new obstacles following the
re-introduction of the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“snooping billÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ in Parliament, writes Torby
The Interception and Communication Bill seeks to empower security agents and the communications minister to monitor and intercept private communications between individual citizens or organisations.
The bill was widely condemned last year. In response, President Robert Mugabe's government to refer it to the Parliament Legal Committee which said it contravened sections of the constitution.
But the committee has now passed ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“a no adverseÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ report, which means that the bill is set to go before parliament for debate.
Press freedom groups have warned that if the bill is passed, it will shut down use of the Internet for the free flow of information.
Misa-Zimbabwe director Rashweat Mukundu said the bill is too broad and tantamount to creating a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“cyber concentration campÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ where everyone is deemed a suspect before they have even committed a crime.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢The bill vests too much power in the security agents and the minister of communications. As Misa-Zimbabwe we don't see its necessity in an environment where there are too many repressive laws,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ said Mukundu. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“It is a direct assault on the liberties of the citizens of this country.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢
Zimbabwe already has draconian media laws that make it an offence to practise journalism without accreditation from the government-appointed media regulator – the Media and Information Commission (MIC).
The Interception of Communications Bill seeks to establish a centre for monitoring and intercepting both fixed and mobile telephone communications as well as ordinary postal articles deemed detrimental to the interests of the state.
The bill seeks to empower the Defence ForceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Chief of Intelligence, the Director General of the PresidentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Department of National Security, the Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to apply for authority to intercept communications.
Authority to issue an interception warrant will be vested in the Minister of Transport and Communications who can do so if he believes a serious offence is being committed or that there is a threat to safety or national security.
Telecommunication service providers will be required to install hardware and software facilities and devices to enable interception of communications.
Service providers will be compensated by the state for helping monitor or intercept communications, according to the proposed law.
The bill provides that anybody person aggrieved by an interception warrant may appeal to the Administrative Court. It also provides for the Attorney General to review the Minister of Transport and CommunicationsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ exercise of power to issue warrants.