TWO Lusaka-based journalists Clayson Hamasaka and Thomas Zgambo have dragged Airtel Networks Zambia to Lusaka High Court for allegedly allowing unauthorised people to tap into their mobile phones conversations, intercepting and diverting of short messages service (SMS) to unauthorised individuals.
And the journalists are seeking an injunction to restrain the mobile service provider and other individuals from breaching the petitioner’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
According to a petition filed in court yesterday, the duo said between 2013 and 2014 they experienced strange situations where SMSs from their mobile phones could not be delivered to the intended recipients despite phones showing that they were sent out.
Similarly, the petitioners claimed that they could not receive SMSs from other people that had sent them text messages.
The duo said such actions by Airtel also constituted a breach of the Airtel’s contractual obligation and the duty of confidentiality towards them and further that action breached various provisions of the laws among them the Electronic Communications and Transport Act and other international laws and treaties.
The petitioners contended that the action by Airtel prevented them from communicating freely and conducting their normal business, and brought psychological tortures, distress, torment, and suffering to their well-being.
“By illegally gaining access to their confidential information, so dangerous to them as journalists, the petitioners believe that their information has been used and continue to be used to their detriment and the information could be in wrong hands including criminals,” the petition read.
The duo prayed that the court will grant them an injunction restraining Airtel and other people from further breaching their rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
They are also seeking a declaration that actions by Airtel breached the provisions of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, 2009, especially section 64 and 66, and many other enabling provisions. The petitioners further sought a court declaration that the mobile phone service providers breached the rights of its subscribers as provided for under the provisions of Articles 11, 17 and 20 of the Zambian Constitution.
“Your petitioners, therefore, pray for an order for damages for the invasion of their privacy and other freedoms of the petitioners aforesaid, breach of contractual duty of confidentiality and the physical loss suffered by the expression. Cost of and incidental to this petition, and such other declarations and orders that this honourable court may consider appropriate to grant in the circumstances,” it read.
They said there was need for a declaration that the actions by Airtel were an assault on the media and democracy, having targeted the petitioners as journalists and breached provisions of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.