Zimbabwe: Senior journalist arrested for the third time in six months

Renowned journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested by police on 8 January after tweeting about a video allegedly showing a police officer hitting a woman carrying a baby - his third detention since July 2020. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the harassment of Chin'ono and other journalists and urges the authorities to release him immediately.

Zimbabwe journalist Hopewell Chin'ono with his mobile phone moments after an interview with the AFP at his home in Harare on November 21, 2020. Credit: Jekesai Njkizana / AFP

UPDATE / 27-01-2021: Hopewell Chin'ono was granted bail on January 27 by the country's High Court after nearly three weeks in pre-trial detention.

Chin’ono was sent to jail due to his tweets condemning the acts shown on a video circulated via Twitter four days before. The video allegedly shows a police officer hit a lady with a button stick, instantly killing the baby she was carrying on her back. The health situation of the lady and the baby are still unclear.

Many citizens expressed alarm about the police brutality but only Chin’ono and Zimbabwe's main opposition party spokeswoman, Fadzayi Mahere, were arrested for it.

Chin’ono was taken to the Law-and-Order section at the Central Police Station in Harare. He was only allowed to see his lawyers almost four hours after his arrest. After that, he spent the weekend at the dreaded maximum security Chikurubi prison, located outside Harare.

Chin’ono said that the latest charges against him fall under an "unconstitutional" law, while state prosecutors insisted that the case has a legal basis because the video "undermines public confidence in the police".

Journalist is being permanently harassed

Chin’ono was previously arrested in July and November 2020 following his tweets backing banned protests against state corruption and criticizing Zimbabwe’s political elites for their alleged involvement in a gold smuggling case.

The journalists' situation in Zimbabwe has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emerson Mnangagwa’s government has used this crisis to put more pressure on independent journalists, government critics and human rights advocates, who are easily jailed and sometimes abducted by hit-men believed to be operating on behalf of the regime, according to media reports.

Chin’ono is one of the most renowned journalists in Zimbabwe, being awarded CNN African Journalist of The Year in 2008.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We deplore the fact that despite the widespread international condemnation of the attacks on freedom of media and expression, the Zimbabwean government keeps harassing journalists and media workersHopewell Chin’ono is an example of the harassment and threats that Zimbabwean journalists have had to face since Emerson Mnangagwa took office in 2018. . We call on the authorities to release him immediately and stop targeting our colleagues on a groundless legal basis”.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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