In Zimbabwe, Watching TV Can Be a Subversive Act

Police charge 46 viewers with attempting to overthrow the government.

Posted: 02/22/2011 05:12 PM EST
Robert Mugabe

The wave of revolution rolling across the Middle East is having profound effects worldwide. In what seems like a positive step towards healthy reform, Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in power since 1989, has announced he will not run for re-election after his current term ends in 2015. Unfortunately, in China, the government seems to be cracking down very harshly on citizen attempts to emulate the “Jasmine Revolution.” And in Zimbabwe, police have arrested dozens of people for the simple act of gathering to watch televised reports of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

“The illegal meeting’s agenda was ‘Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia: What lessons can be learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa?’” said police spokesman James Sabau, as reported by the Herald newspaper, which is controlled by the government of President Robert Mugabe, who has held power in Zimbabwe for 31 years.

Forty-six television watchers will possibly be charged with “attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means,” a crime that can carry a sentence of 20 years in prison upon conviction.

This is terrible, needless to say, on a specific level. But it goes to show how, in our increasingly interconnected world, oppressive governments are increasingly fearful of the power of that interconnectivity. This can have painful repercussions. But it can also be seen as a positive sign for freedom in the long run. 


Image:  Chris Hondros/Getty Images