Responding to the conviction and sentencing of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) national spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere after she was accused of “publishing falsehoods” for a video she posted on Twitter alleging that a police officer had killed a baby, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa, Flavia Mwangovya said:
“The conviction of Fadzayi Mahere is a travesty of justice as it is based on a law that is no longer existent in Zimbabwe and applied to silence dissent. The legal provision that was used to convict Mahere was declared void by the Constitutional Court in 2014. The High Court confirmed this in another case in 2021. The Magistrate Court in this case should have taken note of the decisions of the upper courts and acquitted Mahere.
“The conviction and sentencing demonstrate the extent to which authorities are willing to go to muzzle critical voices and supress the right to freedom of expression. The authorities are sending a clear message that there is no space for exercising the right to freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.”
“Zimbabwean authorities must quash the sentence and stop using the courts to target and harass individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression both online and offline.”
Mahere was charged under section 31 of the Criminal Law Reform and Codification Act with “publishing or communicating falsehoods” after she posted on Twitter a viral video of a woman tussling with a police officer with a motionless baby in her hands in January 2021. She was arrested and detained for seven days before being granted bail by a Harare magistrate.
Mahere was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $500 USD for publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state.
Mahere was acquitted of the preferred charge brought by the prosecution of “promoting and inciting public violence” and convicted her only of the alternative charge of communicating false statements.
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