Zimbabwe court says internet shutdown during protests was illegal

FILE PHOTO: A man checks his mobile phone in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo
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HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s High Court ruled on Monday that the security minister had no authority to order mobile operators to shut down internet access to customers during protests last week and that the firms should immediately restore unrestricted access.

Judge Owen Tagu made the ruling as legal challenges began to a brutal clampdown on dissent by the government. Fears the country is veering back towards authoritarian rule have driven some leaders of the main opposition party into hiding.

“It has become very clear that the minister has no authority to make the directive,” Tagu said in his ruling, ordering mobile operators to “to unconditionally resume the provision of full and unrestricted services to all subscribers forthwith”.

Critics had accused President Emmeson Mnangagwa’s government of shutting off the internet to prevent evidence of its heavyhandedness being broadcast to the world.