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  • Interception of Communications Bill - Index of articles

  • Zimbabwe might legislate the monitoring of phones and mail
    Justin Muponda, ZimOnline
    June 13, 2007

    View the Index of articles on the Interception of Communications Bill

    Zimbabwe's parliament yesterday began debating a law empowering authorities to monitor phones, mail and the internet to protect national security, a move seen by critics as part of an official crackdown on the opposition.

    While human rights groups are concerned that the government of Robert Mugabe, the president, will use the Interception of Communications bill to infringe on privacy and further trample freedom of speech, officials have described it as integral to fighting crime.

    "We are all subject to this law ... and the country needs to act against those who use technology to commit crime as is the norm globally," Chris Mushowe, the transport and communication minister told parliament.

    SA has similar legislation He noted that the United States, Britain and South Africa had similar legislation. The bill is expected to be passed by the lower house of parliament today and then go on to the upper chamber. Mugabe's government, which has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, has a two-thirds majority in both houses.

    If passed, the bill will give the state the authority to monitor the phones and mail of anyone suspected of threatening national security or involvement in criminal activities. Critics say the bill is motivated by Mugabe's desire to punish and keep closer tabs on the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe's main opposition party, amid rising unrest in the economically strapped southern African nation.

    Undemocratic laws: opposition Opposition legislators said that they feared the government would abuse the law. "This law is about the interception of fundamental rights of our citizens and this house should refuse such frivolous and undemocratic laws," said Nelson Chamisa, one of only a handful of MDC legislators who participated in the debate.

    "The law will be used as an arrow aimed against trade unions, civil society, media and political parties involved in genuine political engagements," Chamisa said.

    Zimbabwe's parliament yesterday also approved the Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Bill, which the government said would enable the country to fight international terrorism and mercenary activities. - Reuters

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