'Communication of journalists not shielded by Rica'
South Africa’s surveillance legislation has failed in several ways to protect journalists’ communications‚ a report compiled by the Right2Know campaign says.
The report‚ titled “Spooked”‚ was released in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
“This latest ... report looks at a range of case studies of journalists who appear to have been spied on‚ to unpack what happened‚ how it happened‚ and which parties appear to be responsible‚” the organisation said.
The aim of the report‚ according to Right2Know‚ was to give journalists a better picture of the threats they might face so that they could better defend themselves, and to rally the broader public to ensure an end to surveillance abuses and bad policies that enable them.
The report says the The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica) has failed to protect journalists’ communications, along with those of the general public.
Right2Know said it had tabled a list of demands for surveillance reform with the department of justice.
Several of the demands were “of special importance to addressing the weaknesses in Rica that have put the journalists [listed] in this publication at risk”.
The demands include that there be “greater transparency within Rica‚ including ‘user notification’ (whereby anyone targeted for surveillance is eventually notified once any investigation against them is concluded); an end to the mandatory storing of users’ metadata (records of who you communicated with and your location‚ which, by law, is stored for up to five years by service providers).
“This system creates a huge vulnerability for journalists and their sources.”
Right2Know also demanded an end to SIM card registration‚ which it said prevented anonymous communication but was easily circumvented by criminals.
“So it is mainly law-abiding citizens who are subject to Rica data collection and storage.
“There is no convincing evidence that this policy has improved the state’s crime-fighting capacity.”
Right2Know said it conducted case studies with journalists whose communication was intercepted using Rica.
Read the report here: