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Man convicted for email content
September 19, 2007

In the first case of its kind, a Harare magistrate has tried and convicted a man who was found in possession of a printed email message containing information that was said to denigrate President Robert Mugabe and Vice President Joice Mujuru.

Tendai Murove was on 23 August 2007 charged and convicted on his own plea of guilt to contravening section 26(1)(a) as read with section 33 of the colonial Censorship and Entertainment Control Act after he was found in possession of a six-page letter allegedly sent to him by a friend. Section 26 prohibits the possession of prohibited articles while section 33 states the determination of what is indecent or obscene or offensive or harmful to public morals.

The message, which was written in Shona, repeatedly makes reference to Mugabe and Mujuru, while mocking repeatedly Mugabe for his economic policies and Zimbabwe's record inflation, which now stands above 6 000 percent.

"There is no drop of fuel in Zimbabwe. Neither is there a sign of beer. I pray that Bush (George) and Blair (Tony) can come and rid us of this bespectacled man," the email laments in apparent reference to Mugabe.

"My sister-in-law hails from a wealthy family. She only gets reminded of matters to do with Zimbabwe's economic problems and inflation when Gono (Gideon, central bank governor) presents his monetary policy statements.

"She has sizeable round bottoms. From that you can tell she grew up sitting on a sofa unlike those (bottoms) of (Vice President) Mai Mujuru which were repeatedly scratched by thorny bushes and bullets during the liberation war."

Murove was convicted and fined Z$1 million (US$33) or 7 days imprisonment.

Murove was initially arrested for public drinking in Harare's Avenues area. The police then discovered the document on him.

Faced with growing criticism for its policies, the Zimbabwean government recently introduced a plethora of laws which critics say are designed to both silence and punish dissenting voices. One such law, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, has seen a number of independent media journalists arrested for allegedly publishing information the government deemed to be subversive.

The government recently enacted new legislation, the Interception of Communications Act that empowers the authorities to open emails, letters as well as to monitor telephonic conversations of people.

MISA-Zimbabwe is outraged by the fact that Murove was charged and convicted for something which he did not even author. Section 20 of the Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression which includes the right to receive and to disseminate information. Murove received the email and as MISA-Zimbabwe we believe he should not have been punished for a constitutionally guaranteed right. We actually believe that section 26 of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act is ultra vires the Constitution and should be challenged.

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