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Last Updated: Friday, 15 June 2007, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Zimbabwe's bugging bill condemned
Computer keyboard
Critics say the law threatens freedom of expression
Zimbabwe's internet providers have strongly condemned the bill passed this week to allow the government to monitor e-mails and other communications.

They say they would not be able to afford the expensive monitoring equipment, which the bill says they can be forced to install.

The government says it is similar to anti-terror laws in the UK and US.

But internet providers argue it is a violation of human rights and privacy and "another act of oppression".

The government's comparisons to terrorism is just a smokescreen
Jim Holland
Zispa spokesman

Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers Association (Zispa) spokesman Jim Holland told the BBC News website that the changes he had suggested to the proposed bill had all been ignored.

If the Interception of Communications Bill is passed by the Senate, seen as a formality, the government will be able to monitor e-mails, telephone calls, the internet and postal communications.

Chinese technology

China is apparently providing Zimbabwe with some of its web-monitoring technology.

"Potentially they [government] could insist that anyone operating as an internet service provider (ISP) would be forced to monitor it, which is beyond business's budgets," Mr Holland said.

Communications minister can issue warrants for interception
Police, security and revenue service bosses can apply to minister to issue warrant
Warrants can be issued in case of perceived crime or security threats
Warrants valid for three months, can be extended indefinitely
Right of appeal to minister, not to courts
ISPs must install monitoring hardware and software

He said the act was very broad and "so we wait to see what happens when the details are revealed.

"We know it will be used against human rights and opposition activists. Any of the government's comparisons to terrorism is just a smokescreen."

The telephone calls of government critics are often monitored already.

Correspondents say Zimbabweans could use an encrypted overseas-based web-mail to get round the new law.

Are you worried about the bugging law? Or do you think it will be easy to get round? Send us your experiences using the form below.

To the ISP's cost? This will stop any further expansion and enhancement of the use of internet services in Zimbabwe. If the ISPs cannot afford it and go broke, Zimbabwe being left without internet services will shut down. How will we send money, buy fuel etc when the internet had made this all possible?
Karl, Milton Keynes

I am getting my old man a laptop, webcam and fully subscribing his internet for the whole year for father's day for use in his house in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe . I will phone him everyday and berate the government at every available opportunity and will send him e-mails of all that anti-Zimbabwe propaganda. This should give Mugabe and his spooks something to do and then maybe they will stop wrecking havoc on the country. You know what they say - an idle mind is a devil's workshop.
BM, Crawley West Sussex

I am not worried but maybe one day... Anyone out there 2 enlighten me on how "encrypted overseas-based web-mail" work?
AK, Gitarama, Rwanda

The so called "bugging" has been in place for a number of years. People calling from outside of Zimbabwe to Zimbabwe, have always been careful in what they have to say so therefore conversations are guarded and often limited. i don't think it will effect the average citizen but then again the zim government are becoming more paranoid/vigilant by the day.
Anonymous, Ex Zimbabwe - currently in Cambridge UK

I have no problem with that. Most countries have such a law in place and so why not Zimbabwe? We are dealing with a section of society that now sees politics in everything that government does. The opposition just want to gain political mileage at the expense of progress. Government must govern and life must go on. The opposition must debate these issues in parliament and not in western capitals. They must not blame anyone if they loose the next election in 2008.
Arnold Mutaviri, Harare

I believed it is a very important step toward cracking down enemies who were used by the so called west to destabilise their country. go ahead Mugabe don't give them chance even a second.
Alhagie Ceesay, Gambia Banjul

It just keeps getting worse! The phrase used to be Ce La Vie!. African style, as a friend of mine says, - Ce L'Afrique!
Osman Ahmed, Addis Ababa

Mr Zenawi has blocked all the free Ethiopian news website but we still manage to get access to any internet site through www.anonymouse.com But the funniest thing is always if something happened in Zimbabwe it is a news for the west but if equivalent things happens in Ethiopia , it is covered up as our prime minister is a favoured leader by the west.
Abebe Eyasu, Addis Ababa

If the UK and USA use these tools, there sure is nothing wrong in Zimbabwe doing the same. No one should play big brother over others.
Golden Nyambuya, South Africa

It is common knowledge that the properties surrounding the official presidential residence have their telephones bugged. I remember friends of my wife (foreign nationals) who moved out of their rather nice apartments for this very reason.

Paranoia is setting in! I think that web-based mail, because of it's very nature, will be harder to monitor. People just won't use their normal POP3 e-mail for sensitive topics and could easily setup Yahoo or hotmail accounts with pseudonyms. Duh!
Leonard, Harare, Zimbabwe

98% of the Zimbabwean landmass does not have telephone or internet access by terrestrial means, and VSAT (satellite) technology is required. This technology bypasses all governmental or other monitoring systems and is completely secure. There are at least 500 privately owned VSATs in Zimbabwe, these internet and email users have nothing to worry.
Maarten Elffers, Almere, The Netherlands

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