Pressure group OccupyGhana says the real motive behind the ‘Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Messages Bill’ is just to intrude the privacy of people and nothing else.
Members of OccupyGhana said parliament cannot go ahead to pass the bill in its current form and added that they were willing to appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and Interior to share ideas on how to make the bill better before its passage.
In a letter written yesterday to parliament, the group expressed concern that a bill of this magnitude was being ‘rushed’ for passage.
“There is the morbid eternal fear that without a clear definition of the crimes and offences, innocent Ghanaians will be monitored for acts that do not fall under crimes,” it insisted.
“A Bill of such nature, with the capacity to heavily intrude private lives with possible commercial implications, cannot be rushed through parliament, having earlier been reclusively published in the newspapers,” OccupyGhana noted.
According to OccupyGhana, “The Bill does not follow important international legal best practices, which require that such a Bill must be guided and moderated by related Acts of Parliament.”
It said, “In the UK, there are the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which guide how ‘serious crime’ perpetrators are investigated. Ghana’s Data Protection Act is not enough to protect the privacy of innocent Ghanaians.”
The group said the purpose of the Bill, which is protect national security, fight crime generally and in particular suppress organized crime, including money laundering, terrorism, narcotic trafficking and other serious offences and for related matters,’ is vague and ambiguous, leaving room for misinterpretation and abuse by the Executive.
National Security Coordinator
OccupyGhana said it was objecting to the mandate to be given to the National Security Coordinator to give oral authorization for the interception of the postal packets and telecommunication messages of Ghanaians within 48 hours before confirmation through the law court.
“This means that innocent Ghanaians can be monitored without any legal authorization by a court of law. We do not trust the discretion of an appointee not bound by any Investigatory Powers Act.
“We find it preposterous and dangerous the requirement that the Justice of the High Court, appointed by the Chief Justice, to supervise the implementation of this Act and ascertain whether the provisions of this Act are being complied with, submits to the National Security Coordinator who is required by the same Act to obtain interception warrant from a Justice of the High Court sitting in chambers.”
The group said the authorized parties cannot guarantee security of the intercepted messages and packets and also added that the punishment for the breach of the security of the intercepted messages and packets is not grave enough to deter the parties mandated to act on the Bill.
“The request by the National Security Coordinator from persons who provide public postal service, cyber communication service, or public telecommunication service to take the necessary steps for the enforcement of an interception warrant is unfair and unfortunate because their capacity to afford and manage the enforcement is not guaranteed. The one who bears the financial cost of the interception is not stated,” the pressure group underscored.
OccupyGhana called on parliament to suspend the passing of the Bill in its current state and allow for what it called “better public and stakeholder engagements to ensure absolute integrity and competence of the parties or persons involved with the interception of messages and postal packets.”
By William Yaw Owusu