High Court allows two journalists access to Airtel records

The Lusaka High Court has allowed an application by two journalists, former Evelyn Hone College lecturer Clayson Hamasaka and freelance journalist Thomas Zgyambo to access phone records from Airtel Zambia in a matter which is before the court.

Delivering the ruling, High Court deputy registrar Kelvin Limbani said applicants had  sought guidance from the courts on how to proceed in  the matter and to ascertain  whether the application was tenable by law or not. Mr Limbani said the petitioners in their affidavit wanted to find out who initiated the scheme to illegally intercept and divert data from their phones after experiencing strange situations.

“The petitioners claimed that the text messages from their mobile phones were not delivered to the intended recipients yet they had not provided any particulars of the intended recipients.

“They sought the court’s guidance as to whether the respondents were lawfully correct or whether it was not irregular to invoke and/or rely on Order 18 rule 12 in moving the court for an application for further and better particulars and whether the application for further and better particulars was tenable at law in view of the mode of commencement of the matter,” he said. Mr Limbani said the petitioners requested for the respondent (Airtel) to allow custody, possession or power to allow the court fairly dispose of the matter as the information related to the subject matter.

According to the application, the network service provider was custodian to information of registration and the know your customer (KYC) records for the telephone numbers which were a subject of the proceedings, including communication records for each of the phone numbers provided to the court.

They charged that the communication records for each of the said telephone numbers for the year 2013 and 2014 should contain communication of short message service (SMSs) or Text Messagesto  show the following:

i.          The date and time the message was sent or received to and from on each number

ii.         The originating number of the message and the number to which the message was delivered as extracted from the network system without any alteration or changes to it

iii.       The actual content of the messages was not required.

“The Petitioners have listed the documents that they seek to be produced which documents are in the custody of the respondents and are fundamental in the determination of the matter.

“I am of the considered view that it is in the interest of justice that the listed documents be produced to enable the determination of all the issues in the matter. The application is accordingly allowed,” he said.

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