Zimbabwe’s first Facebook arrest

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Zimbabwe is a new addition to the list of countries where governments are arresting users of popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Bloggers and social media users in Egypt, Syria, China and Libya have faced arrest for statements seen as a threat to the ruling governments.

Beware of what you post if you are in or travelling through Zimbabwe. A Bulawayo-based user of the giant social network site has been arrested after posting an innocent message on a Facebook page allegedly belonging to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Vikas Mavhudzi posted the following rather jumbled message on February 13th related to the protests in Egypt arranged via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. “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.”

Mavhudzi now faces the charge of “subverting a constitutional government”. The police arrested him on February 24th, after receiving an anonymous call that claimed he had sent a ‘security threat’ via his mobile phone.

Only after his the arrest did the Zimbabwean police actually search through his phone, discovering the message in the sent folder.

The case prosecutor, Jeremiah Mutsindikwa, says by his message, Mavhudzi is “advocating or attempting to take-over government by unconstitutional means”.

The Zimbabwean authorities opposed bail when he appeared before a city magistrate on Thursday. Mavhudzi will remain in custody till March 9th.

Protests against dictators in North Africa appear to have rattled Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF, as any discussion of the events there is now considered a crime in Zimbabwe.

A group of activists who gathered to watch video footage of the protests were arrested on February 19 and are still in detention. Lawyers said suspected ringleaders have been brutally assaulted.

SW radio reports the Zimbabwean government is allegedly moving at a ‘very fast pace’ to construct a secret electronic eavesdropping complex just outside Harare.

According to Tererai Karimakwenda in London a trusted source has revealed that the Chinese, who are building the complex, have a system that enables most security agencies to ‘spy at will’ on emails, website visits, social networking sessions, and telephone calls made over the internet on a massive scale.

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