The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has been criticised for threatening to clamp down on social media users who “cyber-bully” government officials.
Zimbabwe Union Journalists (ZUJ) secretary-general Foster Dongozi said when he saw the statement by the police, which was posted on Twitter, he thought someone had hacked the ZRP’s Twitter handle. Said Dongozi:
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When I saw the tweet, I dismissed it because I thought somebody had hacked the police Twitter handle. We do not believe civilians can pose a threat to government officials.
I would have believed it if it was about the terrorist attack on journalists covering a Press conference at Impala Car Hire.
It was a terrorist attack because those involved were never arrested or said to be on the run.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu called for police officers to undergo social media literacy classes as it seems that they do not know what cyberbullying entails. He said:
Maybe there is need for a social media literacy class by police on what cyber-bullying is, which laws criminalise it and a few examples of such cases so that we may know how to moderate our behaviour when engaging government officials.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe chapter director Tabani Moyo urged police to approach the issue of cyberbullying in a holistic manner and not from the angle of the ruling elite. Moyo said:
Everyone deserves to be protected when doing their work online, be it, women, in media or across the divide, be it the youth, the opposition and ruling party members.
Protecting only the ruling elite is missing the target and they have to promote the responsible use of the internet and not trample over rights of citizens in the process just to protect the ruling class elite
In a press statement posted on microblogging site Twitter on Monday evening, police said:
The ZRP warns individuals and groups from committing crimes through cyber-bullying of government officials who will be performing their constitutional and lawful obligations in terms of service delivery to Zimbabweans.
The Police are aware that a certain group of suspects who know that their arrest is imminent is fingered and issuing threats and harassing some officials…