Ghana Connect panelists shred controversial ‘snoopy’ telcos bill

Parliament may have bought some time to allow for extensive consultation and deliberation on the controversial telecommunications bill but it does need extra effort to convince a lot more Ghanaians to give up their civil liberties if it wants the bill to be passed without any hitch.

On Joy FM’s Ghana connect program, two panelists Denis Armah and James Apedor shredded the Bill in its current form whilst flagging the potential by government to abuse the soon-to-be law by tapping into people’s private calls.

A third panelist, David Asiedu, who was ready to give up part of his liberty, if this law is responsibly regulated, even has a problem with sections of the Bill and wants them changed.

The Postal Packets and Telecommunications Bill has sent many tongues wagging in protest of a Bill that will allow personnel of the National Security to listen, record, monitor, intercept or tamper with telecommunication messages.

The Bill among other things is to help in the fight against terrorism, money laundering and other trans-national criminal activities.

If the Bill is passed into law, the National Security Coordinator will have the power to snoop into people’s private conversation if he has any suspicion that a person may be involved in any criminal activity.

Even though the coordinator will be doing this in concert with a High Court judge, the bill in its current form gives sweeping powers to the Security Coordinator to tamper with people’s private messages.

Panelists on Ghana Connect did not fail to raise their objections to the bill, even though they applauded Parliament for extending time for inputs into the Bill by two more weeks.

Denis Armah, a lawyer said the bill has to be opposed with all vehemence because it is only a recipe for abuse.

He said the Bill gives the national security coordinator too much power to snoop into people’s privacy.

While acknowledging the role of a High Court judge in working to ensure the law is not abused, Armah said the way the Bill has been framed gives the security coordinator an overbearing role.

James Apedor
James Apedor, a media and communications specialist, who quoted sections of the 1992 Constitution said even though the constitution guarantees the right to privacy of the citizens, the same constitution gives right to security personnel to obtain private information from people if they suspect those persons are up to something mischievous.

He wondered why government will seek to go beyond this framework to provide the national security coordinator a blank cheque to record, monitor, intercept or tamper with telecommunication messages of all Ghanaians.

He said journalists must resist this bill and rather push for the passage of the freedom of information Bill.

“We should not be entertaining this at this time,” he stated.

David Asiedu also a lawyer and blogger said in the current global dispensation where terrorism and money laundering appear to be the order of the day, he would not mind giving up part of his right to privacy if the Bill is fine tuned.

He did not understand how the Bill would allow for the state to jail an official of a telecommunications company for ten years if that official fails to release private information about an individual and yet when the National Security Coordinator is deemed to have lied to get somebody’s phone tapped, that coordinator will not be punished.

He believes the punitive measures must cut across to ensure fairness to all players.

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