American arrested in Zimbabwe for 'insulting Robert Mugabe'

A US citizen has been arrested for a tweet just weeks after Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe appointed a cyber security minister charged with policing social media. By Jekesai NJIKIZANA

A 25-year-old American woman was arrested on Friday by the Zimbabwean police because she sent a tweet about the Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe, that was deemed to be offensive.

Zimbabwe police on Friday picked up O'Donovan and seized her laptop during a dawn raid on her home in Harare. The subversion charge carries a 20 year prison term.

O'Donovan has been charged with undermining the authority of or insulting the president, Shava said.

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"Most Zimbabweans do vent on social media about the state of the country, so if they arrest her for this, they might as well arrest all Zimbabweans on social media", Munya Bloggo, an activist stated.

Ms O'Donovan denied the allegations as "baseless and malicious".

Mugabe, 93, has been increasingly uneasy about social media activists after a pastor started the #ThisFlag movement previous year to organize stay-at-home demonstrations against the government. Zimbabwe was shaken past year by the biggest anti-government protests in a decade.

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The AP also reports that the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights say they have represented almost 200 charged for allegedly insulting the Zimbabwe president in recent years. Martha O'Donovan works for social media outlet Magamba TV, which targets youth and describes itself as Zimbabwe's leading producer of political satire. Frustration is growing in the once-prosperous southern African nation as the economy collapses and the president, in power since 1980, is already running for next year's elections.

The ZRP officers claimed that Martha O'Donovan, who is represented by Obey Shava of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, posted a tweet on her profile during the recently held Shoko Festival, which referred to a certain Goblin, whose wife and stepsons imported a Rolls Royce vehicle.

Mr Mugabe, 93, was not named in the tweet, according to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an NGO who who are representing Ms O'Donovan.

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"This arrest marks the start of a sinister new chapter in the Zimbabwean government's clampdown on freedom of speech, and the new battleground is social media", Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International's deputy regional director stated.

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