MISA slams electronic spying bill


HARARE - The Mugabe regime's latest onslaught on personal freedoms, a bill permitting state spying on citizens’ electronic mail and internet access, is both unreasonable and unconstitutional, the Zimbabwe Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MIS

A) says.
Chris Mhika, a media lawyer who studied the draft Interception of Communications Bill for MISA, said it appeared to be an attempt to replace sections of a Postal and Telecommunications Act, which were struck down by the Supreme Court in May 2003.
The bill has already provoked outrage among lawyers and civil society organisations. In addition, internet service providers (ISPs) which under the Bill would have to install hugely expensive hardware and software facilities to intercept their clients’ communications, say it could bankrupt them.
“Its vagueness, lack of any sound justification, and wanton invasion into the private lives of citizens makes the Draft unreasonable in a democratic society and therefore unconstitutional,” Mhika said in a report issued by MISA.
“What is about to be grabbed now are the fundamental rights and freedoms, or civil liberties of ordinary citizens, including the right to free communication. There is clearly no fresh mischief to be combated in Zimbabwe.”
The bill’s drafters make attempt to conjure up any new so-called national threats – its purpose being simply to establish interception for the sake of interception, the report added.
James Holland, a representative of the ISPs, said a number of providers would have to shut down because of the huge costs of buying the interception equipment, which is not available locally.
The bill, Holland told the Financial Gazette, should be fought by lobbying Zanu (PF) legislators, petitioning Robert Mugabe, and, if this fails, contesting it in the courts.
The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists plans to mount a legal challenge, as it did against sections of the law against the law clamping down on press freedom.

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