Zimbabwe Legislation May Filter Internet

While much ire in the fight against net censorship and free speech restrictions falls squarely at the feet of the Chinese government, a new law in Zimbabwe should raise some eyebrows.

The lower house of the country's parliament passed the so-called "Interception of Communications" act on Wednesday, clearing the way for the government to begin monitoring of phone calls, mail and Internet for "national security" purposes.

However, opponents of President Robert Mugabe -- widely considered a dictator by most scholars -- say it opens the door for his administration to further curtail freedom of speech and privacy than it already has.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change is voicing its opposition to the bill, calling it a "fascist piece of legislation," however it will likely do little, as Mugabe's party controls the legislature.

Government officials say the legislation is necessary to fight terrorism, and point to similar laws in other countries including the United States. However, it appears the bill may have little in the way of checks and balances to prevent its abuse.

Last week, Amnesty International issued a warning saying that the curtailing of Internet freedoms was an increasing problem. A study by the Open Net Initiative said that while Zimbabwe had a highly oppressive regime, no evidence of internet filtering could be found.

"Limited Internet access and e-mail-focused usage have centered the country's efforts to control the Internet toward regulating email," it said in the report.

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