JOHANNESBURG-- The Right2Know, an alliance of civil rights organization, says many journalists in South Africa are fearful that someone is spying on them.

The organization reveals this in its latest report, entitled "Spooked: Surveillance of Journalists in South Africa", which presents a range of case studies of journalists who appear to have been spied on, with the aim to give them a better picture of the threats they might face so that they can better defend themselves.

Murray Hunter, the National Co-ordinator of the Right2Know, said Wednesday that the main surveillance law is the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA), which regulates the interception of communications and associated processes such as applications for and authorization of interception of communications.

He said the AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit company founded to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, would soon challenge the law in the Constitution Court.

What RICA says is that everyone who has a (mobile phone) SIM card and has registered their identity with the SIM card, and that if the State wants to intercept their communications, they need the permission of the judge. But we have seen that it hasn't done enough to protect people's privacy against surveillance abuses," said Hunter.

We have seen whistle-blowers, journalists, activists being spied on. What we want from this constitutional challenge is more protection for our privacy. If you are spied on, at some point you need to get notified that your information has been handed over.

"The current secrecy around RICA has meant that when people are spied on illegally, they have no way of detecting it and acting to protect their rights.

Right2Know says journalists in South Africa are targets of state and private sector spying particularly those uncovering corruption, state capture and in-fighting in the state security agencies.

Meanwhile, the South African National Editor's Forum (SANEF) says they are not surprised by the contents of this report. SANEF chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase says journalists have been complaining that their communication devices including cellphones have been intercepted.

Over the years we have heard from journalists complaining that they suspect that their phones have been tapped. We know that many of the journalists that have uncovered corruption in this country have been targets and this is a serious threat to media freedom," Mahlase said.

And whistle-blowers come to journalists because they are gatvol with the corruption within the state. They come to journalists trusting that they will be protected. We have to see action where there are gaps with the Rica laws. And also we are hoping that this review by the President of the State Security will actually look at all of these issues and bring them to an end.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has initiated a panel to review the mandate and functioning of the State Security Agency, which has been implicated in a range of abuses relating to its surveillance work.

Right2Know says surveillance affects all members of society, including whistle-blowers and activists. The report recommends among others increased vigilance from media organisations and more accountability from communication service providers.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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