Reporters Without Borders regrets that the Interception of Communications Act was finally signed into law by President Robert Mugabe on 3 August. It enables the government to intercept phone calls, emails and faxes with the declared aim of protecting national security.
"The promulgation of this law is further evidence of Mugabe's desire to keep news and information under close control," the organisation said. "Zimbabwe had already given itself one of the world's most repressive legislative arsenals as regards press freedom. Now all forms of communication have been placed under surveillance."
15.06.2007 - Parliament's lower house approves bill for intercepting communications
Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the Zimbabwean House of Assembly's approval on 13 June of a draft law that would allow the government to intercept mail, phone calls and email without having to seek a court order. The government submitted a similar bill to parliament last year but withdrew it after complaints from national and international organisations.
"This bill is evidence that the government is determined to have strict control over information," the press freedom organisation said. "The fight against terrorism is constantly used by oppressive regimes as a pretext for cracking down on freedoms. We appeal to the senate, which is due to consider the bill soon, to reject it."
If adopted, the law will expose journalists, NGOs and human rights activists to the possibility - a real one in Zimbabwe - of being accused of representing a threat to national security.
31.07.06 - Bill for monitoring e-mail and mobile phone calls submitted to parliament
Reporters Without Borders condemned the Interception of Communications Bill that was submitted on 26 July to the Zimbabwean parliament. It would allow the authorities to intercept and read e-mail messages and listen to mobile phone calls without needing to get permission from a judge.
"We deplore this new proposed law, which would clearly violate every citizen's privacy, the freedom of expression and opinion, and the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources," the press freedom organisation said.
"Although not on the front line of the fight against terrorism, the regime is clearly using this as a pretext for silencing its critics in the press and political opposition, and we therefore call on the parliamentary legal committee, parliamentarians in general and, if it gets that far, the supreme court, to reject the bill," Reporters Without Borders added.
The parliamentary legal committee is currently examining the bill to determine if it conforms to the constitution. If approved, it will be go before the entire parliament.
09.05.2006 - Serious threat seen in proposed law on intercepting communications
A bill presented to the Zimbabwean parliament at the end of March will give the government a free hand to intercept its citizens' phone calls, e-mail messages and letters without providing any credible safeguards, Reporters Without Borders said today after obtaining a copy of the bill, the text of which is now available on the organisation's site (www.rsf.org).
"We fear the worst," Reporters Without Borders said. "This bill will allow the authorities to place journalists and opposition politicians under surveillance without any control from the courts. It also directly threatens the local contacts of international media and NGOs. The government will have new tools to ensure that no embarrassing news or information crosses its borders."
The organisation added: "This proposed law is all the more worrying as it will give full powers to transport and communications minister George Charamba, who said at the end of last month that press freedom was just an 'auxiliary right'."
The bill envisages the creation of an Interception of Communication Monitoring Centre (ICMC) staffed by "experts" able to spy on every kind of data. It says that telecommunications companies such as Internet Service Providers will have to install interception software and set up a direct connection to the ICMC to allow real-time monitoring. Company executives who refuse to comply could face up to three years in prison.
The proposed law says the ICMC would provide technical assistance to companies but does not specify what software would be used. However, a South African online newspaper reported in May 2005 that the Zimbabwean government has discussing the acquisition of communication interception technology with China. At the same time, Zimbabwean sources say Chinese equipment is already being used to jam independent radio broadcasts.
The bill envisages that the chief of the Defence intelligence, the Director general of the President's department of national security, the Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Revenue authority would all able to submit requests for phone taps and other forms of communications interception to the transport and communications minister. This minister is the only official authorised to issue an interception warrant, which he can do if he thinks a "serious offence has been or is being or will probably be committed" or if there is a "threat to national security".
The warrant issued by the minister will be valid for three months, but he will be able to renew it as often as he likes if he thinks there is "good reason." And he is not subject to control by any court. It is also alarming that the bill says that an interception request can be made orally in "the case of emergency or the existence of exceptional circumstances."
The following should appear at the end of every post:
According to the IRS, "Know the law: Avoid political campaign intervention":
Tax-exempt section 501(c)(3) organizations like churches, universities, and hospitals must follow the law regarding political campaigns. Unfortunately, some don't know the law.
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to campaigns at the federal, state and local level.
Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. Section 501(c)(3) private foundations are subject to additional restrictions.
Political Campaign Intervention
Political campaign intervention includes any activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements.
Contributions to political campaign funds, public statements of support or opposition (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization, and the distribution of materials prepared by others that support or oppose any candidate for public office all violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention.
Factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:
- Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office
- Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval of one or more candidates' positions and/or actions
- Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election
- Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election
- Whether the issue addressed distinguishes candidates for a given office
Many religious organizations believe, as we do, that the above constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That said, we make the following absolutely clear here:
- The Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project not only do not endorse any candidate for any secular office, we say that Christianity forbids voting in such elections.
- Furthermore, when we discuss any public-office holder's position, policy, action or inaction, we definitely are not encouraging anyone to vote for that office holder's position.
- We are not trying to influence secular elections but rather want people to come out from that entire fallen system.
- When we analyze or discuss what is termed "public policy," we do it entirely from a theological standpoint with an eye to educating professing Christians and those to whom we are openly always proselytizing to convert to authentic Christianity.
- It is impossible for us to fully evangelize and proselytize without directly discussing the pros and cons of public policy and the positions of secular-office holders, hence the unconstitutionality of the IRS code on the matter.
- We are not rich and wouldn't be looking for a fight regardless. What we cannot do is compromise our faith (which seeks to harm nobody, quite the contrary).
- We render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. We render unto God what is God's.
- When Caesar says to us that unless we shut up about the unrighteousness of Caesar's policies and practices, we will lose the ability of people who donate to us to declare their donations as deductions on their federal and state income-tax returns, we say to Caesar that we cannot shut up while exercising our religion in a very reasonable way.
- We consider the IRS code on this matter as deliberate economic duress (a form of coercion) and a direct attempt by the federal government to censor dissenting, free political and religious speech.
- It's not freedom of religion if they tax it.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:24-26)