Mexicans Will Face 30 Years Prison For a Tweet

In Mexico, two people are accused of carrying out an “Orson Wells”-style Twitter sabotage and can consequently face up to 30 years jail time: one of them is a former teacher, who turned radio commentator, while the second is a maths tutor, living with his mother. Both of them have been charged with terrorism.

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According to local media reports, citizens of Mexico, Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola and Gilberto Martinez Vera, have been arrested after a panic reminding many of a modern day equivalent to radio broadcast of Orson Welles’s The War of the Worlds, which took place back in 1938. Now the prosecutors claim that the defendants helped cause a chaos of over two dozen car crashes and panic, which occurred when parents in the Mexican city of Veracruz hurried to save their kids. The cause was a twitter message relaying a false report that gunmen had been attacking schools in the area. As a result, the emergency services entirely collapsed, as citizens were terrified.

Following the news that for weeks the police have been having gunbattles with drug traffickers, Gilberto Martinez Vera, working as a tutor at a number of private schools, tweeted that gunmen were taking kids from schools in the area. Despite the fact that there had been no kidnappings at the moment, he later told the police coppers that the rumors had already been circulating and he just retweeted what he knew from the others. Aside from this, he also tweeted 3 days earlier that the gunmen mowed down 6 children aged 13 to 15 in the Hidalgo neighborhood. Although it was true that such an attack took place, it didn’t involve any children.

In the meantime, the prosecutors point out that the similar rumors were also sent by Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola, a radio commentator, known on the radio and social networks as “Maruchi”. She also admitted that she just retweeted the message to her own followers, and believes it’s unfair to bang her up for simply relaying a message. She has now changed her Facebook page, placed the Twitter logo there and wrote “I too am a TwitTerrorist” in a status bar.

Both of the defendants have been arrested, but now online petitions started to circulate to demand their release. At the same time, human rights groups insist the charges in question are exaggerated. In fact, the panic has likely more to do with the fact that the country is in the middle of a drugs war, which took lives of over 35,000 people over the past 5 years.