2018 elections: Online media targeted

The abduction and the government’s subsequent lack of active action over the disappearance of antiestablishment activist and journalist Itai Dzamara in 2015 marked the first major sign of the Robert Mugabe regime’s determination to thwart any internet and social media driven voices of dissent.

Dzamara, who used social media and the internet to express his discontent with government, was allegedly abudcted from his Glen View home after a series of arrests, beatings and other forms of persecution, most of which was perpetrated by the state security agents.

With the 2018 fast approaching and President Mugabe intending to stand at world record 94 years of age, the elections are likely to be one of Zimbabwe’s most contested and the rulign Zanu PF party, known for using state power to thwart the opposition, is likely to use its most ruthless methods to remain in power.

One of the new dynamics that is likely to unsettle government, is the emergence of internet based publishing and social media, which have thrown the state’s monopoly on information into obsolence.

Already, the Information Communication and techonology ministry has expressed discomfort over what it terms ‘abuse’ of social media and several individuals including activist Pastor Evan Mawarire have been arraigned before the courts over what they post on the internet.

It appears government’s focus is not just on social media as some news websites run by foreign-based Zimbabweans like Victor Chatikobo’s zimnewsblog.com, among others, are a target of Zanu PF ahead of the 2018 elections.

Sources have indicated that apart from intentions to hack or disrupt the websites, the party, through its ICT department and with the assistance of the state security agents, could harass those who run such sites with the intention of blocking access to alternative information.

Currently in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and other entities that sympathise with government like the Zimpapers owned Star FM and ZiFm have monopoly to broadcast media and it is only the internet platforms that have some independence and are gaining mileage as access to internet grows, hence the push to have them censored.

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