The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Individual Privacy Drive Gathers Momentum

Zimbabwe's media laws have been vindicated as developed countries continue to promulgate laws that seek to protect individuals' privacy similar to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

China is the latest country to draft a law that is meant to protect personal privacy, especially cyber crimes, following a rapid growth in internet usage.

Analysts say this vindicated the enactment of AIPPA in Zimbabwe.

"Protection of the public is a function of the State to make sure its citizens are safe," said University of Zimbabwe International Relations lecturer Dr Charity Manyeruke.

"This draft by China seeks to achieve the same objectives as AIPPA. The instruments are meant to protect the public because security is not about guns and bullets anymore. It's now more to do with human security.

"Because of the internet, we now have cyber crimes being committed and there is, therefore, a need to protect our children who are vulnerable."

Dr Manyeruke said there was need for Zimbabwe and other countries to strengthen their media laws to incorporate provisions against internet crimes.

Aippa was enacted in March 2002 to prevent the unauthorised collection, use or disclosure of personal information by public bodies; to protect personal privacy, to provide for the regulation of the mass media, provide members of the public with a right of access to records and information held by public bodies and to make public bodies accountable by giving the public a right to request correction of misrepresented personal information. MDC-T legislators also supported the law in Parliament.

However, the local private and international media have been demonising the Act saying it was a draconian piece of legislation that stifled access to information.

Political analyst Mr Gabriel Chaibva said most progressive countries introduced laws that were meant to protect people's privacy.

He said there was a need for countries to enact laws that responded to these technological changes.

"The law the Chinese are embarking on is to cater for technological changes as a result of the development of internet and social networks usage.

"These laws like AIPPA and this Chinese one are just a transformation into an era of technology. Most countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and Sweden have far more restrictive laws and have their own media laws that are like AIPPA.

"There is no way we can allow the abuse, insults and vulgarity on the social networks," said Mr Chaibva.

Mr Godwine Mureriwa said some Western countries were criticising Zimbabwe over Aippa yet they had enacted laws that were similar to AIPPA.

"Every country that is conscious about its security and sovereignty must try to have such kind of legislation because technology is spreading fast".

It was, therefore, imperative for the Zimbabwean Government to follow suit. It was in the interest of the individuals that their privacy was protected.

While they may criticise AIPPA in the so-called democracies they have similar laws. According to the China daily newspaper, the draft seeks to ban illegal trading of personal information.

It says organisations and individuals would be banned from illegally obtaining and providing or selling personal digital information.

The United States, has promulgated more than 130 laws on internet management while Britain has nine laws on the internet covering competition in the industry and protection of children's rights and protecting national security.

Other countries with such laws include Japan that has six regulations while Australia in 2003 enacted the Spam Act that covers regulation of commercial e-mails and other types of commercial electronic messages.

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