Just months after naming and shaming companies and individuals that externalized money, His Excellency is now turning his attention to promoters of fake news. Talking about this the President Mnangagwa said;
We also note the wanton peddling of false news through social media to cause despondency and alarm among people. We are now certain and clear of the personalities behind these wicked and criminal activities and the net is closing in on them. We will soon name, shame and bring to book these gluttonous individuals and companies.
Fake news is something every country is battling and something that’s affecting everyone in Zimbabwe and the world over. Yes, at its worst fake news causes despondency, most probably after you hear bad (which is fake) news or in some cases it induces you to make a regrettable decision (like buying cooking oil at a premium after fake news informed you that there will be a shortage of cooking oil in the future). So, I understand and share the President Mnangagwa’s sentiment towards fake news.
Apparently, the President isn’t going to let it slide, those people or companies are going to be punished for promoting fake news. What punished they will get is not yet known. Whilst I side with the President that promoters of fake news need to be punished to dissuade that kind of behavior, I think this time he just has to let them off the hook of punishment and serve them a warning until the cybersecurity bill, which will cover crimes committed over the internet, is translated into law.
Accordingly, whatever punishment the President will bring against them will probably be seen, from a certain angle, as an attempt to curb freedom of speech. The President would be well-advised to wait for punishing promoters of fake news until the cybersecurity bill translates into a law. When the cybersecurity bill gets to be a law, it will be apparent that promoters of fake news would have violated a clear law, which would justify their punishment.