Intercepting telephone communication is an offence under our laws. It carries a sentence of 25 years imprisonment on conviction.
Intercepting and subsequently publishing a telephone conversation between two Government officers is prima facie evidence of an offence against the State.
That is why we do not expect the Police or indeed the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (Zicta) to wait for either Minister of Information Chishimba Kambwili or indeed Kitwe district commissioner Chanda Kabwe to lodge complaints regarding their taped conversation. We expect these authorities to take requisite action to bring the culprits to book.
By definition interception of communication is any act that eavesdrops or listens in to a conversation without legal authority. And even where authority is provided through the various legal instruments such intercepted communication cannot be published because it amounts to an invasion of privacy which can only be exposed under very clear legal conditions.
In the absence of such authority, interception is a criminal act and is an invasion of the privacy of individuals as assured by the Constitution on principles of the rule of law.
Criminal activities of whatever nature should not be countenanced by law enforcement authorities because doing so would be abetting crime while at the same time creating impunity for people who believe they are inscrutable, untouchable and beyond the law.
Nobody should be beyond the law and the police in particular must act decisively to prove the point. It is not good enough to descend on petty criminals and leave behind criminals who endanger national security by making nonsense of our telecommunication laws which are intended to protect electronic data and communication.
We have said before that the entire mighty 168-year-old tabloid, News of the World, the widest circulating British newspaper selling 2.8 million copies a week, was forced to close down on account of hacking into mobile phones, bugging and eaves-dropping on telecommunication and phone conversations.
Close to 4,000 victims are believed to have been targeted among them politicians, celebrities, senior Government officials and even clergymen.
James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch founder of News of the World said: “These allegations are shocking and hugely regrettable”,
Indeed for the avoidance of any doubt, our own laws prohibit interception of communication. Section 64 of our telecommunication law states:
(1) Except as otherwise provided under
this Act, a person shall not:-
(a) Intercept, attempt to intercept or
procure another person to intercept or
attempt to intercept any
(b) use, attempt to use or procure
another person to use or attempt to use
any electronic, mechanical or other
device to intercept any communication.
(2) A person who contravenes subsection
(1)commits an offence and is liable, upon
conviction, to imprisonment for a period
of twenty-five years.
Therefore, interception of telecommunication is not a simple offence for which perpetrators can thumb their noses. It is a serious matter and we expect that the authorities deal with it with the seriousness it deserves.