By McDonald Chipenzi
Since the audio leakage in which it is purported that President Hakainde Hichilema’s political advisor, Levy Ngoma, and Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security permanent Secretary, Joseph Rikki Akafumba, discussed ECZ CEO and took sides in the internal squabbles of the opposition Democratic Party (DP), raised mixed comments from various stakeholders.
Worst still was the summoning of the KBN T.V. manager whose station aired the audio first which summons have also triggered sharp criticisms from some media bodies and human rights defenders against the Zambia Police Service and the Government.
The question is, is there any possible violation of the law by the KBN T.V. or not but mere media harassment by the new dawn government using the police?
President HH has promised the nation of respecting the rule of law and by nature, the rule of law means enforcement sections of the existing laws whether good or bad by the police or any LEA failure to which it would be lawlessness.
Zambia last year hastily enacted the Cyber security and crimes Act No. 2 of 2021 which sought to intercept, monitor, and interfere with cyber communication among other mandates by law enforcement agencies.
In this Act under section 32(2)(a) and (b), it is illegal for *a person to access, disclose or attempt to disclose to another person, the content of any intercepted communication or use or attempt to use, the contents of any intercepted communication.*
The penalty attached to this act by any person, on conviction, is 1m penalty units (ZMK300, 000) or 10 yrs in prison (subsec 3 of sec. 31).
In addition, only law enforcement agencies are mandated to intercept, attempt to or use, or procure another person to intercept and use any intercepted communication (sec 26) any other person who is not a LEA or spouse of the LEAs who does intercept or use intercepted communication commits an offence and is liable on conviction to the penalties cited above.
On summoning and searching suspected cyber offenders, the Act empowers the cyber inspector/LEAs under sec. 15 to summon any suspect to answer questions, produce physical or electronic record, document or copy of the article which is subject of or relevant to the investigation and also orally examine a person who appears to be acquainted with facts and circumstances relating to the alleged cyber offence/threat.
The LEAs also have been empowered under the Act to enter, access and search premises and seize any information, make copies of a book, document or records the suspect has in possession of, at any reasonable time and without prior notice (Sec11)
Section 12 criminalises obstruction from suspects of the LEAs from conducting a lawful search or seizure and Sec. 15 criminalizes *giving false or refusing to give information or refusing to cooperate with or hinders the LEAs from conducting lawful search or seize or refusing to produce any record, document or copy required by the LEAs
This is how bad the law is to the media and investigative journalism and it is why we opposed it and challenged it in court.
Action Aid ZAMBIA, at one time, organised a media sensitization seminar to enable media appreciate the new working environment journalists would be operating under with the Act, I was a facilitator but alas, only a few media heads came and the rest were intern reporters.
Therefore, with the above, *it will be unfair to condemn the police for enforcing the law which was left by the previous regime or condemn the Government
There are two possibilities in the case of KBN T.V. that is, the station broke the law knowingly to challenge it in court when arrested and called for its repeal or broke it ignorantly without any purpose for doing so.
I still stand on the position that the *Cyber security and crimes Act is a bad law in the fight against corruption and in the promotion of a transparent and accountable governance system in Zambia
Therefore, my considered comment and opinion on the KBN T.V. issue is to condemn the law and call for its immediate review to remove all these evil sections in it than attacking police and government.