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Zimbabwe offline as govt moves to control communication

Zimbabwe offline as govt moves to control communication

Zimbabwe's government is understood to have issued a new directive to ISPs and telcos resulting in another internet shutdown in the Southern African country.

Locals have continued to protest a massive hike in fuel prices that resulted in a steep increase in commuter fares and the prices of goods and commodities.

The government had initially blacked out all online connectivity but restored services following a backlash and international criticism. However, social media platforms have remained shut down.

In a fresh development, as of midnight on Thursday 17 January 2019, the internet was shut down again, with speculation that it is an attempt to prevent people from accessing social media platforms through VPNs.

The country's Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, said the government will fast-track social media regulation and monitoring of content flow through the platforms.

The Minister said the Cyber Crimes Bill had now been passed by the Cabinet Committee on Legislation which will ensure social media violations are contained.

"The Bill seeks to guide the formulation of a Zimbabwe Cyber Policy that will ensure that internet and related technologies are used for the good of society, not to violate national security," she added.

Mutsvangwa said there were all types of information circulating on social media, "including fake news, some of it designed to create fissures in the nation" while those responsible were often "out of reach" of national laws. The government has accused civic society organisations and opposition parties of sponsoring this week's protests.

"In the recent challenges facing the country, opposition forces and other civic organisations whose main objective is to topple a legitimately elected government, social media has been used to coordinate the so-called shut down by deploying and coordinating thugs and criminals to attack members of the public and destroy infrastructure as a way of instilling fear in the citizenry and depict the country as failing," added Mutsvangwa.

Mobile operator, Econet and internet service provider, TelOne have said they were directed to disable internet and social media access in line with the Interception of Communications Act.

Strive Masiyiwa, Founder of Econet said management would face imprisonment if they failed to comply with the directive issued by the State Security Minister.

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