CORD joins bid to stop State's phone-tapping plan

Head of CORD secretariat Norman Magaya
The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) has been enjoined in a case seeking to stop the Government from snooping on private communication.

CORD, through its head of secretariat Norman Magaya, applied last Friday to be listed as an interested party in a suit filed by activist Okiya Omtatah.

The case is now likely to take a political angle after the Opposition claimed in court papers the move is not only infringement of privacy but is also set to serve political purposes.

Magaya, in a sworn affidavit through lawyer Anthony Oluoch, argues the timing of the tapping will inhibit elections as it will interfere with campaigns.

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"The tapping of private conversation and data is intended to gag key political players in the run-up to the elections, which will have a negative impact on the exercise of the right to vote and be voted for and to choose freely in terms of Article 30 of the Constitution," argues Magaya.

Last week, the High Court stopped the Government's plan to tap private phone conversations a day before the exercise was slated to commence. High Court Judge John Mativo granted the orders following an application filed by Omtatah who had accused the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) of infringing on privacy, terming the move as a violation of the Constitution.

Justice Mativo directed that the temporary orders stopping the implementation of the directive will remain in force until the case is heard and determined, while directing parties to return to court on March 6.

CA had already awarded Broadband Communication Networks Ltd the tender to deliver, install, test, commission and maintain a device through which the project will be implemented.

Omtatah has sued the CA, Broadband Communication Networks Ltd and the Attorney General.

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He has listed Safaricom Ltd, Airtel and Telkom Kenya as interested parties.

The activist argues the directive by CA to telcos to allow private firm Broadband Communication Networks Ltd to fix a spying gadget referred to as Device Management System (DMS) is illegal as it contravenes several provisions of the Constitution. Among them is the right to privacy.

Omtatah argues the State can still legally tap into communication of private messages and data only with the authority of a judge.

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CORDOkiya OmtatahCA