Zimbabwean police detained a U.S. citizen and seized her laptop on Friday on suspicion of calling President Robert Mugabe a “Goblin” on Twitter, the first arrest since the creation of a Ministry of Cyber Security last month, her lawyers said.
In a tweet, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) group said Ms O’Donovan – the manager of Magamba TV, an online-based satirical video outlet – was the first person to be arrested on such grounds since the ministry was formed.
Police arrested Ms O’Donovan during a dawn raid at her home in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, seizing electronic devices, including computers and a phone, ZLHR’s Obey Shava said in a statement.
Police had not yet charged her but they alleged that “tweets emanating from her IT address are insulting to the president”, Mr Shava was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.
Mr Shava referred to some tweets sent from Ms O’Donovan’s account which referred to a Goblin, whose step-son recently bought a Rolls Royce, but said that Mr Mugabe was not mentioned, reports the BBC’s Shingayi Nyoka from Harare.
Recent online reports have claimed Mugabe’s two adult sons, Robert Jr and Chatunga, have imported at least one luxury vehicle from neighbouring South Africa.
O‘Donovan’s Twitter account was locked on Friday but a photograph on her home page referred to #ShutdownZimbabwe2016, a series of protests last year that rattled Mugabe’s government and elicited a fierce crackdown on the streets and online.
Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she had no immediate information about the case. The U.S. embassy in Harare confirmed that an American citizen had been arrested and said it was monitoring the situation closely.
Zimbabwe does not yet have a cyber-crime law, so if O’Donovan is charged it is likely to be under the presidential insult law, she adds.
Hundreds of people have been arrested over the years under this law. BBC News/Reuters