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Interception of Communications Bill
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Weekly Media Update 2006-21
Monday May 22nd 2006 Ė Sunday May 28th 2006

THIS week The Herald (27/5) revealed that government had gazetted the new "mail snooping law", the Interception of Communications Bill, which seeks to "establish a communication centre to monitor and intercept certain communications in the course of their transmission through a telecommunication, postal or any other related service system".

Typically, the paper merely announced the promulgation of this patently undemocratic law without relating it to the relentless governmentís determination to stifle the free flow of information. Neither did it view the development as a reversal of the 2004 Supreme Court ruling, which found similar provisions in the Posts and Telecommunications Act to be unconstitutional, as they violated Section 20 of the constitution that protects the citizensí right to receive and impart ideas without interference.

To make matters worse, The Standard (28/5) revealed that apart from the countryís repressive media laws, journalists, especially those working for the private media faced other extra judicial hazards in their lawful execution of duty.

The paper reported Lands and Security Minister Didymus Mutasa crudely threatening its reporter Walter Marwizi, after he called him to get a comment on allegations that Manicaland politicians were unhappy with the dismissal of Mutare city commissioners by Local Government Minister Ignatious Chombo.

Mutasa reportedly threatened to "unleash" the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation agents on Marwizi "unless the journalist revealed his sources".

The paper quoted Mutasa saying: "You know I am the minister in charge of security. I will deal with you ruthlessly if you donít tell me the source. Make no mistake", adding "I wonít come in person, I am sending my operatives and they will do a clean job".

Notably, this is not the first time the same minister has made such threats against journalists. Early this year, he told The Manica Post (27/1) that government would take action against a "crop of journalists" engaged in "illegal activities" by reporting for "pirate radio stations" and Western media.

In another related matter, The Standard reported publishers condemning the Harare commissionís plans to charge media houses $100 000 a day "for each site they use to sell their newspaper" saying was an "insidious attempt to curtail freedom of expression and free flow of information".

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