The US Embassy this morning responded to questions sent to them in regards to the arrest of Martha O’Donovan in the matter where the Zimbabwean Government is alleging that she denigrated the President of Zimbabwe through a tweet and was “subverting a constitutional government through Masterminding a social media campaign to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means”.
O’Donovan, whose lawyers will be approaching the Zimbabwean High Court seeking bail, could face a maximum 20 years sentence if found guilty of the charges levelled against her.
Below are the questions and answers sent and responded to from the US Embassy Spokesperson David McGuire, in regards to this matter:
- Is the US Embassy aware of the arrest of Martha O’Donovan?
This US Embassy is aware of the arrest of Martha O’Donovan and is closely monitoring the situation.
- When did Martha O’Donovan enter Zimbabwe? On what Visa is she on?
I would refer you to Zimbabwe authorities regarding Martha’s entry into the country and her Zimbabwean visa status.
- Is the American government aware of any attempts to overthrow the Zimbabwean government by Martha O’Donovan?
The U.S. Government is aware of the charges that have been levied against Ms. O’Donovan. While we will not comment on the specifics of this individual case, broadly speaking we are not aware of any attempts to overthrow the government of Zimbabwe.
- Does the US government have a statement on this arrest?
Members of the Embassy Consular Services team have been in direct and constant contact with Martha since her arrest. We will continue to monitor the situation and will maintain close contact with Martha and her legal team. Due to privacy act considerations, we will not be commenting further at this time.
The Zimbabwean government recently installed a Minister of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation who’s primary role seems to be reigning in social media activities as the country heads for an election in 2018. The charge of “subverting a constitutional government through masterminding a social media campaign to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means” can be likened to what #ThisFlag social activist, Pastor Evan Mawarire, faced last year when he too was arrested and arraigned before the courts (later acquitted).
The Southern African country is in the process of passing a law that mainly targets “social media abuse”, while many have spoken out as to how the current draft law infringes on citizens rights to “freedom of expression and freedom of the media and access to information”.