THE Zimbabwean government is drafting a law to penalise the “abusive” usage of social media with five-year jail terms in its latest measures to regulate the cyber space law and order, state media reported Sunday.
According to the draft, any person staying either in Zimbabwe or overseas shall be found guilt of intentionally generating, possessing and distributing an electronic communication with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, bully or cause emotional distress to another person.
The state-run Sunday Mail said the legislation, Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill, together with two supporting bills on information technology, is to manage the cyber space, which has “for long been abused to foment social disobedience and attack private citizens.”
The legislation came after political dissents organised a series of job boycotts and protests in recent weeks via social media, notably Whatsapp, Youtube and Facebook, mobilising thousands of followers to take action to vent their frustration over a failing economy and alleged rampant corruption.
One of the activists, Pastor Evan Mawarire, who organised #ThisFlag and #ShutdownZimbabwe movements, has fled to South Africa after being accused by the Zimbabwean authorities of collaborating with foreign governments to destabilise the Zimbabwean government.
But Mawarire still wields considerable clout among his social media followers in Zimbabwe, posing a constant challenge for the government to tame social disturbances.
The authorities said the bills would soon be taken to the parliament while the security chiefs have vowed to stand ready to deal with cyber-based attempts at destabilization.
Like many other African countries, Zimbabwe saw a sharp rise on mobile Internet penetration rate thanks to the proliferation of affordable smart-phones and cheap data packages offered by telecommunication firms.
The country’s telecommunication regulator Potraz reported earlier this year that active mobile Internet subscriptions rose to 6.5 million by the end of 2015, nearly half of the entire national population. – Enditem