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AFRICA

Zimbabwe Shuts Down Social Media

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Zimbabweans spent most of Friday without internet after the government ordered the country’s biggest mobile operator to shut down service again.

After several hours, networks were restored, but social media platforms remained blocked, Econet Wireless said in a notice to its customers.

It meant that people in Zimbabwe have not been able to access any social media sites such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook throughout the week.
The shutdown comes as the military was accused of committing human rights abuses during a brutal crackdown on protests this week over a massive hike in gas prices.
A spokeswoman for UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, Ravina Shamdasani, expressed concern Friday over reports of “excessive use of force, including live ammunition” by security forces, and called on the government to “find ways of engaging with the population about their legitimate grievances.”

The United States embassy in Harare also criticized the “disproportionate use of force” in a statement on Thursday, saying it was “alarmed by credible reports that security forces were targeting and beating political activists and labor leaders.”
Days of deadly protests were triggered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement of a 150% increase in fuel prices.

Though calm returned to some areas in Harare on Friday, most shops and businesses remained closed with the army and military patrolling the streets.

Meanwhile, activist and pastor Evan Mawarire, who started the popular “This Flag” movement, appeared in court again on Friday after his arrest two days earlier for allegedly “inciting violence on social media,” his lawyer told CNN.
“I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is. We thought we had a new country and a new way of doing things. None of what I am being accused of is what I have done at all,” Mawarire told reporters before he appeared at a magistrate court in Harare on Thursday.

“I did nothing of that nature. If we have true justice, let’s see it at play.”

Wednesday, security forces shot dead five people and wounded 25 as they battled demonstrators in Harare, Human Rights Watch reported, citing the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights.

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