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General News of Sunday, 21 February 2016

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Telecom Bill: I will go to court if.. – Kofi Bentil vows

Government’s plan to pass into law, a bill to listen to calls without a permit will be met with fierce resistance, lawyer and Vice-President of IMANI Ghana Kofi Bentil has vowed.

Kofi Bentil says the Postal Packets and Telecommunications Bill is a direct infringement of Ghana’s 1992 constitution which protects every citizen’s right to privacy.

“The day you pass this bill I will go to court” he re-stated a warning he said he gave parliamentarians who are considering the passage of the Postal Packets and Telecommunications Bill.

Current legislations already allow security officials to listen in to calls of any person if it can obtain a warrant from the court justifying the need.
However, the new Bill removes the need for a warrant and reduces the requirement to a simple command or order from operatives within National Security.

National Security would be able to listen, record, monitor, intercept or tamper with telecommunication messages in a move which the Bill says will help fight arms, drugs and human trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, armed robbery and other trans-national criminal activities.

National Democratic Congress MP for Tamale Central Inusah Fuseini called it “expanding the frontiers of protection”.

“We want Ghanaians to be safe and secure…we are being pro-active” he explained on Multi TV/Joy FM's Newsfile Saturday.

But the remaining panelists, NPP MP for Obuasi West Kwaku Kwarteng and Editor-In-Chief of the New Crusading Guide, , newspaper Malik Kwaku Baako remained unconvinced.

Obuasi West MP Kwaku Kwarteng described the bill as “scandalous”. He recalled that while serving as a special assistant at the Finance ministry in the erstwhile NPP administration, they had no difficulty in getting warrants to track communication of suspicious persons.

“I am yet to hear of an instance where they have been to court and the court says I will not give you”.

Government has enough powers to track suspicious activity, Kwaku Kwarteng stressed.
The Obuasi West MP suspects that the bill is intended to target critical opposition figures and critical journalists.

He wants a national campaign against the passage of the law.
IMANI Vice-President Kofi Bentil said the bill is a tactics of despots desperate for power. History, he explained is a witness to how governments in the name of protecting the masses abuse the rights of private individuals.

“This is a classic case….despots and dictators always use the excuse that they need more power to protect the masses and when they get that power with exactly those powers they oppress them”, Kofi Bentil charged.
Kofi Bentil wants government to be content with the ‘plenty’ laws it already has to monitor its citizens.

He warned that government officials should remember that they could become victims of bad laws when they return to opposition.

For veteran journalist Abdul Kwaku Baako, government has gradually intruded on the privacy of Ghanaians while the masses appeared unaware of the intrusion.
The 2008 Anti-Terrorism Act, he said is one of plenty existing laws that already put a citizen’s privacy at risk of intrusion even if it is legal, he said.

“It appears that we have allowed a situation where there is a legal regime for what is being proposed [ in the new bill]” the veteran journalist argued.

Picking on the existing powers granted national security, Baako focused on the 2008 Anti-Terrorism Act which makes miscellaneous provisions for national security officials to cause the interception of calls.