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Interception of Communications Bill - Index of articles
much to monitor for snooping squads
Guma, SW Radio Africa
August 07, 2007
the Index of articles on the Interception of Communications Bill
days after Robert Mugabe signed the Interception
of Communications Bill into law, unconfirmed reports suggest
that out of 45 state security operatives trained by Chinese instructors,
at least 10 have now been deployed at the Mazoe Earth Satellite
station outside Harare this week. The station serves as the portal
for Internet traffic in and out of Zimbabwe via satellite connectivity
to Intelsat, the world's largest commercial satellite communications
services provider. The Mazoe station is also Zimbabwe's largest
international telecommunications link.
The new law provides
for the setting up of an interception centre but it's not
clear whether this will be located in Mazoe and if so what the role
of those deployed there will be.
A well-placed source
says the general talk among those implementing the project is that
they have conceded it will be impossible to monitor everyone's
communication. 'It would need the whole security industry
to participate in this exercise, so essentially they are relying
on the fear factor to discourage free speech amongst Zimbabweans.'
A considerable number of people in urban areas use e-mail, faxes,
mobile and landline phones. The net result is that traffic is so
huge even the networks are failing to manage. This is certain to
place an unmanageable workload on those trying to monitor.
The role of China in
aiding repressive regimes around the world comes under the microscope
once again. It has been reported that it's the Chinese who
supplied equipment for jamming outside broadcasts from independent
stations like SW Radio Africa and Voice of America's Studio
7. That the same Chinese government will help implement the latest
project in Zimbabwe comes as no surprise. Big corporate entities
like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have also come under criticism
for cooperating with the Chinese government in its censorship drive.
Whether Mugabe will secure similar concessions is yet to be seen.
Tapping into the Yahoo and Hotmail systems would in principle need
the cooperation of those companies.
Media watchdog Reporters
Without Borders has meanwhile slammed the government for passing
the controversial snooping law. The group said, 'the promulgation
of this law is further evidence of Mugabe's desire to keep news
and information under close control.' To add insult to injury
Internet Service Providers are compelled to install and pay for
the equipment themselves, and the cost implications in foreign currency
are likely to cripple some of them.
"A service provider
who fails to give assistance in terms of this section shall be guilty
of an offence and liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period
not exceeding three years or to both," reads part of the Act.
As usual government is
depending on the 'fear factor' to do much of the work
for them - silencing discussion and criticism. But the bottom
line is that they can't listen to and monitor every single
person - what they can do is target individuals, and they've
been doing that already for a long, long time.
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