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Zimbabweans urged to use social networks
February 29, 2012
major opposition party, the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) has urged Zimbabweans to use social media sites such
as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as platforms to express themselves
in a country that has failed to satisfactorily diversify its media.
The call for
social media use, made by MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti, comes
at a time when speculation is rife that Zimbabwe will go to the
polls this year. President Robert Mugabe, who recently celebrated
his 88th birthday, has called for elections to be held this year.
Mugabe¹s party, ZANU-PF, has strongly opposed proposed media
reforms in the country even though regional institutions such as
the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have encouraged
such reforms as a precondition for the holding of free, transparent
and credible elections.
Biti is quoted
by website, IT Web, as saying: "The issue of ICT is fundamental
[as] battles are no longer fought with guns but on Twitter and Facebook
and YouTube. We really have to enter the Internet age. New media
tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are credited for significantly
helping in mobilizing the masses in the Arab world, leading to the
fall of dictators such as Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali (Tunisia) and
Hosni Mubarak (Egypt)" and Biti, who is also the country¹s
Finance Minister did not shy away from making this reference according
to IT Web.
to the Arab Spring is treated with deep suspicion in Zimbabwe. Six
activists, including a former lawmaker, Munyaradzi Gwisai, are currently
on trial, charged with conspiracy to commit public violence,
after they were arrested while watching video footage of the Egyptian
uprising, allegedly with the intention of mobilizing the people
of Zimbabwe to revolt against government and demand the resignation
of President Mugabe. They all deny the charge.
call also comes in the wake of a Freedom House OE Freedom On the
Net report, which notes that while [Mugabe's] regime has committed
rampant human rights abuses and exercised strict control over the
traditional media, the internet is nominally free from government
interference. Yet, the existence of an Interception
of Communications Act (2007) poses significant threats to Freedom
of Expression in Cyberspace in Zimbabwe.
The Media Institute
of Southern Africa continues to urge the government of Zimbabwe
to implement substantive media reforms before any election is held.
Through our Zimbabwe chapter (MISA-Zimbabwe), we have also previously
welcomed the inclusion of media freedom and access to information
in the first draft Constitution, published early February 2012.
We strongly feel that Chapter 4 of the said draft captures the requisite
ingredients necessary for the flourishing of independent, diverse
and pluralistic media and must, therefore, be included in the final
the MISA-Zimbabwe fact
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