A 25-year-old American woman was arrested on Friday by the Zimbabwean police because she sent a tweet about the Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe, that was deemed to be offensive. She could face 20 years in prison because of that.

Martha O’Donovan was arrested in her apartment in Harare  Zimbabwe’s Capital city – at around 5 a.m Friday. Now, she is being accused of insulting the dignity of the African president, which is illegal in that country, and she might also face charges for trying to overthrow the government of Mugabe because of her tweet, where she expressed that he is a selfish, sick man.

“We are being led by a selfish man and a sick man,” twitted O’Donovan.

No freedom of speech in Zimbabwe

Controversial tweet, Freedom of speech Zimbabwe, Martha O'Donovan
O’Donovan could face 20 years in jail for the tweet. Image credit: AP/Reuters

O’Donovan is an American human rights activist and producer. She grew up in New Jersey, and she graduated from New York University. Then, she went to Zimbabwe, and she has been working as a project officer with the local television network Magamba for over a year.

This network is known to produce satirical content for its distribution in Facebook and YouTube, as a way to promote a democratic space in Zimbabwe. However, it seems as if the freedom of speech is somewhat compromised under Zimbabwe’s regime.

O’Donovan’s arrest became the first one since Mugabe established the Cyber Security Ministry. The real objective of that ministry is to identify who might be saying things that are not in favor of the regime.

Robert Mugabe was Prime minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987, when he became president and from that moment on, he has ruled over that African country. Currently, he is 92 years old and has a delicate health condition. He continually travels overseas to receive medical treatment. In spite of his terrible condition, he wishes to continue heading the government and will seek to be reelected in the 2018 elections.

O’Donovan might be facing a 20-year sentence in jail

For most citizens of the world, tweeting that a politician is sick and selfish would not be a big deal at all. However, O’Donovan could spend up to 20 years in a Zimbabwean jail just because of a tweet about their president. Her lawyer, Obey Shava, say that the charges could be so much worse than they expected. O’Donovan might be accused of trying to overthrow the government.

Shava is part of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who often represent activists that are arrested in that African country. Reports said O’Donovan spent Friday night in a cell at the Harare Central Police Station and she faced the courts this Saturday.

According to Freedom House, Zimbabwe is a partly free nation. Though social media, people are somewhat free, as the TV channels are entirely partialized and controlled. Many activists just disappear after being accused by the government to avoid punishments.

“The protests, combined with factional rivalries in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and a self-inflicted economic crisis, have further weakened the regime of 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe” is stated in the 2017 report on world freedom published by Freedom House.

Source: Los Angeles Times