Friday, March 23, 2018

The Chronicle Of Spy Bill In Namibia

Spy Bill: Surveillance technologies and interception communication in Namibia.
Watch out Namibia, or Big Brother may be watching you!

While Namibia has been steadily moving towards a completely free democratic state, new surveillance technologies threaten to bring about democratic erosion and produce a stealth authoritarian regime. Today, the country is free, with a constitution that protects civil rights, free and fair elections, and an independent judicial branch. However, there are some worries that the Namibian government may be using legally ambiguous and invasive communications and surveillance technology. These practices constitute a threat to many democratic institutions, such as the rule of law. If the government is using these technologies against its people, with no transparency or apparent legality, they may begin to violate civil rights which protected by the Namibian constitution. By utilizing communications interception and surveillance technology, the government can pose a major threat to civil society. There have even been allegations against intelligence and state security agencies, claiming that they have started targeting youth movements especially land activists, religious institutions (Islamophobia), and non-state actors as threats to national security.

In addition to this, the politicians consistently caution Namibians not to disturb the “peace and stability” of the state, especially when the SWAPO party is publicly criticized. A major example of this occurred in 2009 when the SWAPO party responded to allegations of cheating by the opposition leader by charging the opposing Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) party president with compromising peace and stability in the region. In early March 2016, the Human Rights Committee reviewed the report of Namibia, finding some concerns. One concern was that communication interception centres were operational despite the Communications Act (Act No.8 of 2009) was not legally in force. 

In 2017, the Namibia Central Intelligence Service held two closed-door workshops strategize on preventing and countering what it termed violent extremism. There are many proposals resulted from these workshops, but two are of major concern to democratic institutions should they be implemented. The first is that the government would require telecommunication service providers like MTC Namibia or Telecom to register SIM cards under the name of the owner. The other proposal was to implement technology to monitor social media include Facebook in order to detect extremist posts. The issues with these proposals, which soon would be put in place to fight terrorism and cybercrime in Namibia, there is concern that they could potentially threaten the democratic system and privacy. Because these mechanisms would be used to spy on Namibian citizens and monitor internal critics and political actors that are in opposition to the current governing body. 

Aziz Huq and Tom Ginsburg pointed out that governments may use democratic forms to achieve anti-democratic ends. One such way in which states can do this is by emphasizing threats to national security and the purity of the homeland in order to restrict the freedom of civil society, political actors, or the media. The new surveillance techniques have a high potential for abuse, because there is little to no government transparency, the security apparatus actions cannot be held accountable to the public. A big concern is that political paranoia, created by public criticism of the government and internal fractures in the ruling SWAPO party, is the primary reason for the increase in government surveillance. This is n’t the first time that the government tried to censor alleged perceived threats from journalists and other political actors. During the 2014 election period, journalists were harassed by security forces and police for taking pictures at public events. Additionally, the Namib Times Editor Gareth Amos was assaulted and imprisoned by police officers, followed by the assault on an NBC Radio Producer by SWAPO councillor Ambrosius Kandjii in 2014. 

The 2016 Human Rights Report, published by the United States State Department, claimed that the most significant human rights issues in Namibia were the slow pace of judicial proceedings, discrimination and violence against women and children, and child labour. However, there was also a decent amount of corruption by government officials. This was accompanied by the lack of public access to government information, attacks on media freedom, and criticisms of the press. In April 2016, two journalists were detained and questioned. 

The government claimed that it was due to the journalists potentially capturing material that could hamper national safety, but the journalists said it was due to the deputy prime minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, being upset by the questions they asked during an interview. There were also reports of journalists for state-owned media practising pro-government self-censorship. The intimidation and dilution of free media is a major threat to democracy, so it is worrisome that it has been so prevalent in recent years. This can threaten a democratic institution because people may be getting false information, so they are not able to vote in favour of their own best representation. 
In addition to media censorship, the 2017 Freedom House report says that the defendants in a corruption case, which dates back to 2016, attempted to have the trial judge removed. This is a blatant attack on the judicial system, which should operate independently by the influences from other branches of government. 

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt claim that democratic institutions can be undermined by attempts like this to capture the judicial system by firing and replacing non-loyal members. If the defendants had been successful, it would have been a sign that the government was using the judiciary to protect themselves from prosecution and even harass opponents. 

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