Social media repression could boomerang on Mugabe
From MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – THE repressive Zimbabwean regime of President Robert Mugabe has been warned further restrictions to citizens’ access to social media and monitoring private communications could spark more protests in the troubled country.
The regime has come under severe criticism for introducing the Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill to allow authorities to arbitrarily seize mobile phones, tablets and laptops, monitor private communications; interrupt broadband service and sentence violators to five years imprisonment.
This is seen as a desperate attempt to stifle dissent among the impoverished majority amid strikes demanding the resignation of long-time leader Mugabe (92).
“President Mugabe and Supa Mandiwandzira, the minister of information communication technology, should know that further stifling communication will lead to more anti-government demonstrations across the country,” warned Lynn Fredriksson, Freedom House director for Southern Africa programmes.
The legislation, which would supplement the National ICT Policy which is still being developed, is part of the government’s response to recent anti-government protests that have largely been organized and shared via social media.
Hashtags such as #ThisFlag have attracted large numbers of followers.
Many Zimbabweans rely on Twitter and WhatsApp, which have been used to rally mass participation in demonstrations.
In July, the government temporarily blocked access to WhatsApp, as it faced protests over its inability to pay civil servants’ salaries.
“The government of Zimbabwe’s Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill would severely limit citizens’ access to information, as the government tries to stifle calls for economic and political reform,” said Fredriksson.
– CAJ News
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