By Staff Reporter
AMNESTY International Zimbabwe executive director, Cousin Zilala has urged the State to drop “subversion” charges being levelled against Martha O’Donovan over a tweet the State claims was insulting of President Robert Mugabe.
O’Donovan (25), a US citizen who works for Magamba Network TV, was arrested on 3 November.
She is being charged with subverting a constitutional government and undermining authority or insulting President Mugabe.
In the cited tweets, the State says she called Robert Mugabe a “selfish and sick man”.
She was detained for six days on remand prison and was finally granted bail on Thursday.
But Zilala said Thursday that the charges did not warrant any arrest, let alone the lengthy detention she went through.
“Martha O’Donovan should not have spent a single night in jail – expressing an opinion in a tweet is not a crime,” he said.
“Her arrest was the latest example of the Zimbabwean’s authorities’ utter contempt for freedom of expression.”
Zilala described the charges against O’Donovan as absurd.
“While we welcome the decision to release her, the absurd charges against Martha O’Donovan clearly don’t stand up to scrutiny and must be dropped.
“We fear she will not be the last to be swept up in the clampdown on social media platforms.
“We are calling on the Zimbabwean authorities to stop punishing people simply for exercising their freedom of expression. Social media users must not end up in jail simply for sharing their opinions.”
O’Donovan’s arrest and subsequent detention has also been roundly condemned by the country’s opposition and rights based groups amid fears the State was turning to punitive methods to deal with citizen dissent.