Zimbabwe Announces 20-year Jail Term For Spreading Fake News During Lockdown

The Government of Zimbabwe on Saturday gazetted Statutory Instrument (SI)83/2020 to give legal effect to the total lockdown commencing at midnight (Sunday/Monday).

Under the regulations, the spreading of false news that has the “effect of prejudicing the State’s enforcement of the national lockdown” has been made a criminal offence which attracts a fine, prison sentence or both. SI83/2020 reads in part:

False reporting during the national lockdown

For the avoidance of doubt any person who publishes or communicates false news about any public officer, official or enforcement officer involved with enforcing or implementing the national lockdown in his or her capacity as such, or about any private individual that has the effect of prejudicing the State’s enforcement of the national lockdown, shall be liable for prosecution under section 31 of the Criminal Law Code (“Publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State”) and liable to the penalty there provided, that is to say, a fine up to or exceeding level fourteen or imprisonment for a period not exceeding twenty years or both.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday declared a total national lockdown as the world battles to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which has killed over 30 000 people worldwide.

As of Saturday, 28 March 2020, Zimbabwe had seven confirmed coronavirus cases and one death.