Spying on citizens

Spying on citizens as a matter routine is most certainly unacceptable.

It is not done by most civilized democratic societies because it infringes on the most fundamental freedoms and liberties that every citizen enjoys.

Similar schemes have been rejected in most civilized societies because they invade the privacy of the citizens.

It is a matter of concern that even before the system is put in place, President Sata was able to access the private accounts of UPND President Hakainde Hichilema, justifying the worry that many have.. The details of Mr. Hichilema’s accounts real or imagined are now public knowledge, a matter that is totally objectionable.

There is every reason why Mr. Hichilema would not have wanted such information publicized because some of it involves business arrangements that are confidential for various reasons.

If indeed that information was obtained for forensic purposes it should have been used for that purpose and that purpose alone rather than to scandalize him publicly.

Ordinarily security systems must obtain express permission from clearly articulated agencies in order to infringe or indeed obtain details of communication by any particular individual suspected of committing criminal acts or indeed an individual suspected of other wrong doing.

When spying becomes routine, it becomes oppressive and definitely odious. It can easily be abused by those who become privy to information that may not necessarily be a threat to national security. Above all not all communication has to do with security.

The obsession with security that this Government has adopted is a matter of concern and worry, and as we have said before, measures being taken now will become institutional and therefore follow even those in power today when they leave office.

It will be recalled that the intelligence under the one party state was a dreaded institution. People dared not communicate openly in fear of the “shushushu” who would tap their every innocuous conversation.

It was a well known fact then that phone conversations were routinely tapped- a matter that worried many people.

Soon after the introduction of multiparty democracy a very deliberate reform programme was initiated to make the intelligence less intrusive and more relevant to the demands of their calling which had nothing to do with entrenching fear in the populace as was the case in most communist countries.

We entirely agree with civil liberties campaigner Brebner Changala that the US$5million being used by the Government to procure the Chinese made equipment could better be employed on pressing local needs.

It is very sad that precious resources will be used to install a system that spies on citizens while allowing those installing it namely the Chinese to also have access to sensitive business information gleaned from the exchanges of telecommunication messages.

The Chinese have commercial and political interests which they may want to pursue.

We hope that the Service providers will not betray the interests of their customers by succumbing to this wholesale spying. Those providers who succumb when their own countries do not allow such intrusion must be subjected to public damnation.