By Nation Reporter

THE illegal tapping and hacking of phones has become widespread and some media organisations including online publications are callously hacking into private and institutional phone numbers and lines, listening in and intercepting text messages which they are publishing to either scandalise or blackmail their victims.

And now a governance activist Stanley Mhango has warned Zambians with smart mobile phones to be wary of either calling certain media houses or visiting certain online publications or sites because they risk having their numbers illegally registered with such organisations to facilitate eavesdropping and data capture.

Some media houses including online publication which have hacked into phones are now reproducing transcripts whose ‘whatsup’ dialogue of chat groups.

Victims of hacking include ministers, politicians, church leaders, medical officers and private individuals of interest.

Higher Education Minister Michael Kaingu has charged that the tapping of citizens’ phones and listening to their private conversations was a gross violation of the right to privacy which was a constitutional right.

Dr Kaingu said it was criminal for any organisation of individual to invade the privacy or citizens and that State installations such as Zambia Information Communication and Technology Authority (ZICTA) should immediately launch investigations into the matter. He said ministers and civil servants were no longer safe with their phones and would now be wary who was calling them or on how to use certain applications on mobile phones such as whatsup.

And Mr Mhango said in an interview yesterday that it was worrying that there had been inertia on the part of State security institutions such as ZICTA and the police to act on the illegal tapping and recording of citizens’ private conversations even after citizens had complained.

He said recent revelations that some individuals and organisations had been snooping and spying on citizen’s privacy by listening into their private conversations should be aggressively investigated because such acts bordered on treason as  it was a breach on the peace and stability of the country.

Mr Mhango said it was a notorious fact that some known media houses had fabulously invested in criminal activities such as spying into the privacy of citizens and selected political leaders whom they were either blackmailing or scandalising for both economic and political reasons. “The recent revelations that individuals and organisations are spying and snooping into citizens’ conversations are an affront to the right to privacy. But unfortunately in this country, those who commit such crimes often get away with it with glee at their victims. The right to privacy of citizens should never be compromised because that is a constitutional violation but we are deeply concerned that there seems to have been inertia on our State security agencies to act on these criminal acts even when the individuals and organisations are known,” Mr Mhango said. Mr Mhango said in advanced democracies such as the United States and United Kingdom, newspapers were forced to shut down for phone hacking and that Government investigation agencies should therefore take an interest in such matters.

He said it was unacceptable for media houses to continue infringing on citizens’ rights and that there was evidence where citizens had complained but there had been no action against erring organisations.

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