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amaBhungane, Sam Sole to challenge constitutionality of call tapping

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JOHANNESBURG - The amaBhungane Centre For Investigative Journalism and its journalist Sam Sole say they're going to challenge the constitutionality of the legislation that allows security services to tap phones and monitor who is being called by who.

Sole says he has evidence his own phone was tapped illegally because a transcript of a conversation he had was used by President Jacob Zuma in a legal case.

The centre also says the current regulation of interception of Communications Act is unconstitutional.

In their legal papers, amaBhungane and Sole say that the Rica Act is unconstitutional because a person whose communication is monitored is not told of the interception order, even when that period of interception has ended and any investigation has been finished.

They also say the act is completely silent about what state officials are able to do with the data they collect and how that information should be stored and destroyed later.

Adding that Rica is under-inclusive because it doesn't cater for what is called bulk interception, which they understand is already being carried out.

The application also says Rica doesn't provide a mechanism for communication that goes outside the country and then returns, such as when people use Gmail or Skype and WhatsApp to communicate.

The group believes that the State Security Agency may use that loophole in the law to monitor people's communications.

The application also says there is no protection for situations where there is a legal duty to protect information on the part of a lawyer communicating with a client or a journalist speaking to a source.

The application has been brought against five ministries, including the ministry of state security, the office of the Inspector General of Intelligence and the National Communications Centre.

The amaBhungane says it's going to court to ask a judge to declare the act illegal because it does not protect people who have a legal duty to keep certain information secret.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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