Two young Englishmen jailed this week for insulting others might well be wondering what happened. They’re told that their country is a western democracy that upholds the rule of law – and they’re right, it is and it does. That’s the problem. Had they lived 6,000 miles to the south and been Zimbabwe’s energy minister, they wouldn’t be in prison.
During the same week, Elton Mangoma, a Movement for Democratic Change minister, was held by police for about four hours after it was alleged he had insulted President Robert Mugabe. He was questioned by the Law & Order Section, a notorious and frightening department based at Harare Central Police Station. Then he was released, without being charged.
It’s illegal to threaten or insult the president in Zimbabwe, a fact the west has frequently criticicised. And mocked. After all, no such law exists in the developed northern hemisphere. Or does it? If no such law exists, why is Matthew Woods in prison for making jokes about missing girls on Facebook? The jokes were offensive, which now, apparently, is a criminal offense.
Paul Chambers, who made a joke about blowing Britain’s absurdly named Robin Hood airport “sky high” was convicted for the “crime”. Fortunately Chambers wasn’t without means and, after months of appeal, had his case thrown out.
There’s a problem though. This is just some of the weirdness displayed by the cops and the Director of Public Prosecutions at the U,K. Crown Prosecution Service. You can tell them how Orwellian and peculiar they are here.
All this is made possible by the U.K.’s Public Order Act, again a law not hugely different to Zimbabwe’s law of the same name.
So, which is freer? The U.K., or Europe, for that matter, or those dictatorial regimes in the so-called developing world, the ones people find so funny or tear-jerkingly sad, depending on their beliefs?
In the U.K. over 1,400 circumstances give over 20,000 officials the right to enter your home without a warrant. As opposed to none in most of the developing world.