Zimbabwe makes its first arrest over Twitter post

Jerome Frank
November 6, 2017

Reports said O'Donovan spent Friday night in a cell at the Harare Central Police Station and she faced the courts this Saturday.

Police picked up 25-year-old Martha O'Donovan on Friday morning in the capital, Harare, U.S. Embassy spokesman David McGuire told The Associated Press.

The American denied both charges of subversion and undermining the authority of Mugabe as "baseless and malicious".

Lawyer Rose Hanzi says they will approach the High Court for bail on Monday.

She later said O'Donovan faced additional charges of subverting a constitutionally elected government.

O'Donovan is accused of calling 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe a "sick man" in a Twitter post that included a photo illustration of the president with a catheter. We were contending that the arrest was not in compliance with the mandatory provisions of the constitution - in particular, that the police were obligated to inform our client for the reason of the arrest at the time they arrested her, something which they didn't do.

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The move came under severe criticism from activists who said it was an attempt to gag social media users.

"The protests, combined with factional rivalries in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and a self-inflicted economic crisis, have further weakened the regime of 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe" is stated in the 2017 report on world freedom published by Freedom House. Martha O' Donovan, who works with Magamba TV, a satirical youth social media site, has been accused of re tweeting a message which insinuated that Mr Mugabe was a "goblin", one of the worst possible insults in the Shona language.

Earlier this year, she presented a talk at a re:publica digital culture conference titled "How Zimbabweans Rebel Online".

The group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights says it has represented close to 200 people charged for allegedly insulting the president in recent years.

"The reported offensive and insulting tweet does not make any mention of the president's name", Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said in a statement.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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