Social media blocked as protests continue in Zimbabwe

In the aftermath of clashes between security forces and protesters that left five people dead in Harare, the Zimbabwean government has partially blocked access to social media and the internet.

According to tech blog, TechZim, the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has been ordered to shut down internet services. “The telecom systems have been jammed. We don’t have the equipment to do it — so you can guess who did it,” an employee at a Zimbabwe mobile service provider in Harare speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP.

Media rights group MISA Zimbabwe tweeted that it had received reports of disruption from users of mobile operators TelOne and NetOne.

Although social media users have continued tweeting updates from the country, others are complaining of a marked disruption or lag in services particularly on WhatsApp, Facebook and certain news sites.

READ MORE: Five ways to bypass social media bans

On Monday, workers under the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions began a national stayaway in protest against a recent increase in the price of fuel, and the protracted economic meltdown the country is going through. The streets of the capital, Harare, were deserted on Tuesday as many feared bloody reprisals from security forces.

At midnight on Saturday, petrol price went up from $1.24 per litre to $3.31, while the price of diesel increased from $1.36 to $3.11.

State security minister Owen Ncube confirmed that five people had been killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces who opened fire into crowds of civilians, much like the deadly post-election violence of August 2018. Ncube added that more than 200 people have been arrested.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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Kiri Rupiah
Kiri Rupiah is the online editor at the Mail & Guardian.

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