HomeLocalStakeholders urge withdrawal of Communications Bill

Stakeholders urge withdrawal of Communications Bill

Clemence Manyukwe

STAKEHOLDERS in the media and communications industry have recommended the withdrawal of the Interception of Communications Bill currently before parliament to pave way for the drafting of an alternative law.

A new law needed to be drafte

d after wide consultations to address a number of contentious issues such as the usurping of the judicial powers in issuing warrants.

In its submission to the parliamentary portfolio committee on Transport and Communications, the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers Association (Zispa) on Wednesday contended that there was a likelihood that if the Bill was passed in its current form it could be successfully challenged on constitutional grounds.

The organisation said the Bill’s effectiveness in combating serious crime was also questionable, given that those involved in such activities were likely to use encrypted communications.

These encrypted communications are extremely difficult to crack without access to days of processing time on supercomputers that are not available in this country, Zispa said.

“Zispa recommends that the Interception of Communications Bill 2006 be withdrawn in its present form and that a new Bill be drafted following well-publicised public meetings to obtain feedback from affected parties, detailed discussions with key stakeholders in the sector and a study of similar legislation and its implementation in other countries,” the organisation said.

Zispa also queried the Bill’s lack of judicial oversight as the Transport and Communications minister may issue interception warrants on suspicion that “a serious offence has been or is being or will be committed”.

The Bill says the minister may issue warrants for the interception of communications on application by the Chief of Defence Intelligence, the Director-General of the President’s Department of National Security (the CIO), the Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authoritity.

“Normal international practice for legislation of this kind is for warrants to be issued as the result of some judicial process, and for provision to be made for an annual review of the implementation of the Act to ensure that its measures are not being abused,” the internet service providers said.

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