The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Jamesina King has written to President Emmerson Mnangagwa regarding the arrest and detention of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.
The scribe is in police custody facing contempt of court after he allegedly breached his bail conditions in a case where he is accused of inciting public violence in the lead up to the 31 July demonstration, breaches of peace or bigotry or alternatively incitement to commit public violence.
High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi is set to deliver judgment on Chin’ono’s bail bid, on Friday, 20 November 2020, after he was denied bail by Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa, on the fresh charges.
Speaking during the 67th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR, held virtually, Commissioner King said she wrote the letter to President Mnangagwa on 15 October 2020.
“Journalists and other media practitioners play an important role … they provide the public with the necessary information to develop an opinion and make informed decisions,” Commissioner King said.
“However, despite their indispensable role in society, journalists are often targets of threats, intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, detentions, and disappearances, in addition to physical attacks, which have sometimes resulted in murder.”
Chin’ono’s arrest has been received with condemnation as it suppresses journalistic fundamental freedoms to free speech as prescribed by the constitution.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe urged Mnangagwa’s administration to take note of King’s words and look into the case.
“MISA Zimbabwe urges the government to respond to Commissioner King’s letter and address the pertinent issues she raises on the state of freedom of the media and of expression in Zimbabwe.
“It is in the interest of the Zimbabwean government to respond to Commissioner King’s letter as this will demonstrate that it has nothing to hide, and is not deliberately targeting investigative journalists, who uncover corruption,” said MISA in a statement.
It further stated that failure to do this has the potential of sending a chilling message that investigative journalism is frowned upon, and worse still, that Zimbabwe is not willing to adhere to regional and continental instruments that it is a party to.