International NGOs write to Ghana Parliament on Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Messages Bill

Mobile appTwo international NGOs dedicated to defending the right to privacy and free expression have sent a memo to Ghana’s Parliament on the draft Bill of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Bill.

In an email to Thursday March 17, 2016 with a copy of the memo, the groups Privacy International and Article 19 while admitting that surveillance practices and providing a comprehensive and accessible legal framework governing communications surveillance and interception is essential in a modern democracy, and states across the world are updating laws on ICT infrastructure, say the laws must be accessible and publicly debated.

Adding that it is essential that privacy and freedom of expression are prioritized within these laws; and that they have sufficient safeguards, and be in line with international law and human rights standards.

Citing parts of the draft Bill, the groups say it allows interception for the purposes of “protecting national security” (Article 2(a) and for “fighting crime generally” (Article 2(b)).

“However, these terms are not defined anywhere in the Bill. Both can be used to cover a wide range of activities, leaving individuals without meaningful guidance as to which conducts might trigger surveillance,” they said.

The groups believe that this lack of definitions is of significant concern as it may lead to abuses.

“In particular, the draft Bill does not refer to any other Ghanaian laws that may define “national security”. The lack of definition leaves the authorities almost unlimited discretion in determining what conduct may trigger the need to interception to protect national security, what is the threshold of such threat and whether or not the threat is serious enough to justify secret surveillance,” they argued.

In February, the pressure group Occupy Ghana expressed its opposition to the Bill in a letter to Parliament.

In the letter, the group outlined a number of reasons for its opposition and said it will make more detailed remarks later but wants the bill to be suspended in the mean time.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

For details, see the full memo on this link.

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