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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Interception of Communications Bill - Index of articles
concerned by Zimbabwe's sweeping surveillance law
to Protect Journalists
August 08, 2007
the Index of articles on the Interception of Communications Bill
A sweeping surveillance
law ratified Friday in Zimbabwe will target "imperialist-sponsored
journalists with hidden agendas" the country's information
minister told CPJ. Sikhanyiso Ndlovu described the law as intending
"to protect the president, a minister, or any citizen from
harm." The Interception
of Communications Act will allow authorities to intercept all
phone, Internet, and mail communications, and will establish a state
monitoring center and require telecommunications providers to install
systems "supporting lawful interceptions at all times,"
according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
journalists say the law is intended to close a loophole in an already
oppressive reporting environment. As Zimbabwe has become more restrictive
of the media, a greater number of Zimbabwean journalists send their
reports to international media outlets and online publications based
outside the country. The lawful interception of communications could
expose investigative reporters and create a climate of fear, said
of Journalists President Matthew Takaona.
law further cuts Zimbabwe off from the world and creates an even
more oppressive environment than ever for the press," said
CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "The international community
needs to be aware that Zimbabwe is attempting to suppress any remaining
press freedom in its country. Urgent action is required."
While the law
troubles reporters at SW Radio Africa, a UK-based independent broadcaster
founded in December 2001 by uprooted Zimbabwean journalists, it
would not deter the station, manager Gerry Jackson told CPJ. The
broadcaster offers news headlines via SMS to a growing audience
of about 5,000 mobile phone users in Zimbabwe, she said. The station
also circulates transcripts of interviews via e-mail to the Zimbabwean
In June 2006,
the station reported that its medium-wave broadcasts into Zimbabwe
had been jammed. There had been a similar scrambling of its short-wave
broadcasts in 2005. The government denied that it had interfered,
but in February it admitted to jamming Washington-based Studio 7,
produced by Voice of America and staffed by uprooted Zimbabwean
journalists. "We cannot allow foreigners to invade our airwaves
without our authority," the Media
Institute of Southern Africa quoted Deputy Minister of Information
and Publicity Bright Matonga as saying.
The law also
threatens to undermine local journalists who clandestinely report
for independent Internet-based publications, Takaona said. Several
Internet news sites have flourished in recent years as alternative
sources of information in response to the government's strict accreditation
regime. Under the 2002 Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, journalists can
already be sentenced for up to two years in prison for practicing
journalism without a license.
A journalist of South
Africa-based Zimbabwean news Web site ZimOnline told CPJ the measures
have been designed to create fear. ZimOnline reporters in Zimbabwe
use e-mail pseudonyms to file stories and conceal their identities
when calling government officials for comments, he said.
Lawyers for Human Rights is considering challenging the legislation
in court, acting director Irene Petras told CPJ. Zimbabwe's Supreme
Court had previously ruled unconstitutional similar legislation
granting the government sweeping powers to monitor communications
that threaten national security when it struck down in 2004 the
Posts and Telecommunications Act, according to news reports.
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