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II. Privacy and governance issues

Statutory rules on privacy

In 2003, Zimbabwe adopted the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA);1 however, the Act has come under widespread criticism from media organizations and NGOs. The law established penalties for journalists and limited critical reporting of the government. Under the AIPPA, journalists can be sentenced for up to two years in prison for practicing journalism without a license.

Recent developments

In August 2007, the president signed into law the controversial Interception of Communications Act, which gives his government the authority to eavesdrop on phone, Internet and other electronic communications and read physical mail.2 The Act also requires communication services providers to facilitate the interception and storage of private communications at the government's request.3

The Communications Minister can issue warrants for interception, and police, security and revenue service heads can apply to the Minister to issue warrants. The request must include the name of the target, and can be ordered in cases of perceived crime or security threats. The warrants are valid for three months and can be extended indefinitely. The law also establishes a state-run communications monitoring centre, from which all interception activities will be conducted. Internet Service Providers must install monitoring hardware and software at their own expense. The right of appeal is to the Communications Minister, not to the courts, and appellants have one month after notification or discovery of interception, whichever comes first, to launch an appeal. However, the law does not require law enforcement to notify targets of the interception.4

Officials say the new law is meant to provide security and prevent crime.5 Communications Minister Christopher Mushowe said the new law was similar to anti-terror laws elsewhere such as in the UK, US and South Africa, stating that "[t]hese are countries which are regarded as the beacons of democracy." Critics say the bill’s anti-terror language is disingenuous and that the law will be used against trade unions, civil society, media and political parties involved in genuine political engagements, and to stifle opposition to the President.6

China is supplying some of its web-monitoring technology to the Zimbabwean government, and reports state that Chinese technology is already being used to block independent radio station broadcasts.7

NGO Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is considering challenging the legislation in court. Zimbabwe's Supreme Court had previously ruled unconstitutional similar legislation when it struck down in 2004 the Posts and Telecommunications Act, according to news reports.8

International obligations

Zimbabwe is a member of the United Nations.9 Zimbabwe ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on August 31, 1991.10