The Daily Dog: Oppression’s Tiny Steps

Last Friday, the government of President Robert Mugabe jailed an American journalist in Zimbabwe. Officials charged Martha O’Donovan with subversion and attempting to overthrow the government after she allegedly tweeted a comment deemed offensive by Mugabe’s watchdogs. Police raided O’Donovan’s apartment in the capital of Harare early Friday and seized her cell phone and laptop. She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Activists and human rights organizations see O’Donovan’s arrest as Mugabe’s latest attempt to send a message to his opposition. The Mugabe regime, which has ruled Zimbabwe for four decades, recently announced the formation of a Cyber Security Ministry. The ministry is likely targeting social media users as part of an intensifying crackdown on activism and free speech.

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Martha O’Donovan (right) is an American journalist under arrest in Zimbabwe. Photo: Jekesai Nikikizana/AFP/Getty Images

The alleged Tweet sent out by O’Donovan criticized Mugabe by saying “We are being led by a selfish man and a sick man.” It also referred to Mugabe as the “goblin.” The message could have easily been aimed at Donald Trump, whose dictatorial delusions of grandeur closely mimic some of Mugabe’s oppressive practices in Zimbabwe, and who also has earned a plethora of Twitter inspired nicknames. With a long history of questionable human rights violations and forty years of rule, Mugabe is the kind of role model that Trump may strive to emulate.

A New Jersey native, O’Donovan called the charges “baseless and malicious.” For the past year, she has been working as a producer with the Magamba network creating content designed to promote activism and expand Zimbabwe’s limited democratic freedoms. The offensive Twitter account that the Mugabe government claims O’Donovan uses is @matigary and shows a profile photo of a black man. The account has been active since O’Donovan’s arrest suggesting that she is not responsible for the alleged content.

Mugabe’s oppression and Friday’s arrest of an American journalist are harbingers of things to come in the United States if Trump is allowed to continue his personal war against personal freedoms and rights. Though Trump cannot live long enough to fulfill forty years as America’s first dictator, his unabashed trampling of the Constitution during the initial ten months of his regime is an ominous sign for all who value freedom of speech and expression and a multitude of other democratically guaranteed ideals.


At the same time O’Donovan was being arrested in Zimbabwe on Friday, Trump’s “justice” department under Jeff Sessions was declaring war on America’s attorneys — demonstrating how oppression begins in small and sometimes unnoticed increments. Sessions and DOJ filed briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States on Friday that should sound alarms in every law school, newsroom, and living room across the nation.

The case in Washington stems from an October decision by an appellate court to allow an undocumented 17-year-old to receive an abortion. The teenager lives in a federally funded shelter in Texas, where the Trump regime had prohibited her from receiving an abortion. The ACLU argued her case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and won her right to receive the abortion on October 24.

Everyone knows how much Trump hates to lose…it’s probably about the same as Robert Mugabe’s own tolerance for losing.

Following the appellate court decision, Sessions and DOJ filed briefs to the Supreme Court asking for the lower court’s ruling to be rescinded — essentially erasing precedent — despite the fact that the case is now moot with the abortion having been completed. More troubling, however, is DOJ’s demand for sanctions against the ACLU lawyers who challenged the Trump regime. Though there was no misconduct on the part of the ACLU, DOJ asks the high court to discipline the ACLU attorneys for no cause what so ever, but a frustrating loss for Trump.

While this development being reviewed and discussed by law clerks in the halls of the Supreme Court may not mean much to others, it is a tactic designed to send a clear message to attorneys across the country: Offend or challenge the Trump regime and you will be intimidated and persecuted with frivolous legal actions.

There is so little difference between O’Donovan’s arrest in Zimbabwe and DOJ’s intimidation in Washington that Trump might as well be called Mugabe, Jr. Despite his 70-plus years, he is young enough to be a son to the Zimbabwean strongman. He already seems to have adopted a variety of fascist and tiny iron-fisted tactics intended to oppress America’s rights and freedoms. The Trump regime’s latest attack Friday on our nation’s democratic institutions is enough for one Twitter user to wonder, “How is all of America not freaking the eff out?”

While O’Donovan sat in a Zimbabwean jail, the U.S. State Department issued a statement late Friday. Department officials said they were aware of the journalist’s situation, but made no further comment. It is more than likely that Mugabe and Trump have O’Donovan exactly where they want her and anyone else inclined to speak out against them…silent.

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