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Interception of Communications Bill - Index of articles
statement on revised spying Bill
November 30, 2006
notes with great concern that the revised Interception
of Communications Bill (ICB) still retains undemocratic provisions
that threaten the citizensí rights to the fundamental rights of
privacy, freedom of conscience and association and urges the Parliament
of Zimbabwe not to pass the proposed law.
It is regrettable
that the government appears determined to have the Bill passed regardless
of the concerns and input of civic society organisations, private
citizens and the business community which were recorded during oral
submissions before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport
An objective analysis
of the Bill undertaken by MISA-Zimbabwe shows that even in its revised
form, the ICB is retrogressive and repressive and has no place in
a democratic society. As was the case with the original Bill, the
revised version is badly crafted and littered with vague provisions
that render it as a dangerously bad law.
The Bill fails
to disclose the solid objective behind the proposal for interception
The proposed law
betrays the governmentís determination to criminalise matters that
should ordinarily be dealt with by civil courts or through alternative
dispute resolution. In addition, the Bill fails to ensure that legitimate
professional activities normal in a democracy such as journalism,
civic protests, trade unionism and political opposition are not
subjected to unwarranted surveillance thereby posing a serious threat
to media freedom and freedom of expression.
could be intercepted in the course of transmission thereby making
it impossible or difficult for media houses to operate freely and
unhindered. If passed in its present form the ICB will adversely
restrict the nationís access to information and infringe on freedom
of expression rights.
Even more worrying
is the serious threat that the proposed law poses on the viability
of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) some of whom have already indicated
that they will be left with no option other than having to close
ISPs, the banking,
legal and other industries and professions will no longer be able
to assure clients that issues discussed or information conveyed
in the normal transaction of business will remain private and confidential.
in the communications industry risk incurring huge capital expenses
through the acquisition of hardware and software as compelled under
the proposed law.
While the revised
version of the proposed law contains a few positive developments
such as the reduction of the Ministerial powers by transferring
certain functions to the Administrative Courts and the provision
of review functions by the Attorney General or the Administrative
Court, it still falls far short of accommodating the concerns of
citizens and remains of great concern.
the Bill extends the grace period within which appeals may be lodged
from two weeks to four weeks but the victim might not even be aware
of the existence of the warrant of interception thereby depriving
oneís right to appeal.
duration of the warrants in question is far too long. Why should
a citizenís privacy be under invasion for such a long time? The
Original Bill provided that the life of a renewed warrant would
be only one month long. The revised version extends this to three
Further, the Bill
does not provide any limit as to the number of times for which warrants
may be renewed. Any reasonable and justifiable law should afford
citizens a substantial degree of certainty. The Bill is also flawed
in that it does not provide for compensation or damages in the case
of the issuance of wrongful or malicious warrants. The protection
granted to those authorised to issue the warrants in question is
It is MISA-Zimbabwe
firm view that the negative aspects of the proposed law as contained
in the revised version far outweigh the positive ones.
The Bill should
therefore be rejected in its entirety. And any Parliament that respects
constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and the declarations, charters
and conventions of which Zimbabwe is signatory to, cannot be expected
to pass this bill.
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