Home Zimbabwe Charges 45 with Treason for Watching Egypt Coverage, Arrests Facebook User

Zimbabwe Charges 45 with Treason for Watching Egypt Coverage, Arrests Facebook User

Zimbabwe tends to remain out of the media spotlight, despite having one of the worst and most enduring dictatorships in the world. One of the reasons for this invisibility is that its resident tinhorn, Robert Mugabe, has outlawed independent domestic media and refused to allow international media in.

But people have a passion for news and that passion has gotten 45 Zimbabweans arrested and charged with treason in the southern African country. Their crime is having watched DVDs of recorded news coverage of the uprising in Egypt.

The 46 initially arrested on February 19 (one has been freed) included “lawyers, students, and trade unionists,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

According to the Guardian, the Zimbabweans had been attending a meeting a called “Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia: What lessons can be learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa?” The security forces seized two DVDs of North African uprising coverage, a video projector and a laptop computer.

Although Mugabe allowed opposition figure Morgan Tsvangirai to join the government last year, it seems clear the move was cosmetic and neither Tsvangirai nor his party or any other opposition figures have been able to make much headway in restoring civil society to a country that was once known as the “breadbasket of Southern Africa” and is now known as a wasteland.

Facebook User Arrested

Despite a lack of penetration of online media in Zimbabwe, the country has had bloggers and groups that used blogs and other social media to report on the government’s war against the poor squatters who set up shantytowns in the country’s larger cities.

Now, Vikas Mavhudzi has become the first Zimbabwean Facebook user to be arrested. Also earlier this month, Mavhudzi left a comment on the Facebook account of Morgan Tsvangirai and was arrested for “subverting a constitutional government,” according to SW Radio Africa.

“I am overwhelmed, I don’t want to say Mr. or PM what happened in Egypt is sending shockwaves to dictators around the world. No weapon but unity of purpose worth emulating, hey.”

Both of these situations had in common a paranoid, violent regime that takes even interest in actions which happened a continent away as a direct threat to its continued power. Mugabe, originally a fighter against the British and an exemplar of peaceful transition from colonial to post-colonial rule, has become a poster child for the kind of “leader” who will do anything whatsoever to retain that rule, including destroying his country.

Anonymous had earlier targeted the country’s government in a series of distributed denial of services attacks. It is uncertain what, if anything, the group is still doing. Zimbabwe is another country the world has taken its eyes off of during the so-called Jasmine Revolution.

For the time being, Zimbabwe continues to work with the Chinese on a vast nationwide electronic eavesdropping center outside the capital city Harare. The intent is to be able to spy on any communication of any kind, including email, from the center.

If anyone from the Anonymous organization reads this, they are encouraged to give us all an update on their efforts in the comments.

Mugabe photo from Wikimedia Commons | Zimbabwe sunset by Martin Addison

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