Zimbabwe’s government is drafting a law to penalize “abusive” usage of social media with five-year jail terms in its latest measures to regulate the cyber space law and order, the state media has reported.
The legislation, which is contained in the Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill would supplement the National ICT Policy which is still being developed, and 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’s planned legislation would allow authorities to arbitrarily seize mobile phones, tablets and laptops; monitor private communications; interrupt broadband service; and sentence violators to imprisonment.
Critics have however warned that the legislation would severely limit citizens access to information.