[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Zimbabwe passes net bugging law
Computer keyboard
Critics say the law threatens freedom of expression
Zimbabwe's MPs have passed a law to allow the government to monitor e-mails, telephone calls, the internet and postal communications.

Opposition MP David Coltart called it a "fascist piece of legislation" aimed at cracking down on political dissent.

But Communications Minister Christopher Mushowe defended it, saying it was similar to anti-terror laws elsewhere such as in the UK, US and South Africa.

"These are countries which are regarded as the beacons of democracy," he said.

The Interception of Communications Bill now passes to the Senate, where it is expected to face little opposition, Reuters news agency reports.

President Robert Mugabe's government already faces criticism for laws that curtail free speech and movement.

Web records

The bill obliges internet service providers (ISPs) to install equipment, at their own expense, which will allow a monitoring service to intercept e-mails.

We are aware... that it is always going to be a delicate balancing act
Christopher Mushowe
Communications minister
The communications minister will be able to issue warrants for interception.

And senior police, security and revenue service officials will be able to apply to the minister to issue a warrant.

Critics say the law does not make provision for such decisions to be reviewed by the judiciary.

"This law is about the interception of fundamental rights of our citizens and this house should refuse such frivolous and out rightly undemocratic laws," Nelson Chamisa, an MP for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said during the parliamentary debate.

"Most provisions are injurious and the law will be used as an arrow aimed against trade unions, civil society, media and political parties involved in genuine political engagements," he said.

The MDC accuses President Robert Mugabe's government of using all parts of the state to block its challenge to his rule.

Mr Mushowe said the need for such legislation was "indisputable".

"We are aware, however, that it is always going to be a delicate balancing act to find equilibrium between the need for individual rights of citizens while ensuring that both the national security and public interest are protected," Zimbabwean television quoted him as saying.


RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific