By A Correspondent- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has urged the Zimbabwean authorities to release incarcerated journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.
Chin’ono was arrested again early this month after he tweeted about the arrest of Zanu PF politician and Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya, who was arrested at Robert Mugabe International airport and accused of trying to smuggle over 6kgs of gold out of the country.
On 26 October, Chin’ono tweeted that sources from the National Prosecution Authority had said the prosecutors were not opposed to giving Rushwaya bail and the state arrested him on allegations of obstructing the course of justice.
He is also accused of violating the bail conditions of his previous arrest.
Said the RSF:
“Zimbabwe journalist Hopewell Chin’ono will continue to be held at Harare#s high security prison after being denied bail this morning. RSF condemns this decision in the strongest terms and calls for his immediate release. #FreeHopewell.”
We publish below the full statement by RSF:
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Zimbabwean judicial system’s persecution of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono after a Harare court refused to release him on bail today in connection with the tweet for which he was arrested nine days ago.
The winner of CNN’s African Journalist of the Year award in 2008, Chin’ono has been held since 3 November of charges of contempt of court and obstructing justice for tweeting that he had been told that the controversial president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation, a powerful boss under former President Robert Mugabe, would be granted bail after being arrested during an attempt to smuggle 6 kilos of gold.
Chin’ono will himself remain in a high security prison after being denied bail today. His lawyer, Doug Coltart, told RSF that the decision was clearly a “reprisal” and an attempt to silence someone who has been “at the forefront of the fight against corruption in Zimbabwe”. Coltart said he would appeal.
“This journalist, who was already held for six weeks a few months ago and who is now having to sleep alongside some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, has absolutely no case to answer and is clearly the victim of an attempt to silence him,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.
“We firmly and unreservedly condemn the judicial harassment to which he is being subjected and we call for his unconditional release. His latest arrest speaks to the legacy of repression typical of the Mugabe era that the new authorities are proving slow to shake off.”
Chin’ono spent a month and a half in prison on a charge of inciting an anti-government protest following arrest on 20 July. He was arrested just weeks after helping to expose a case of overbilling for medical supplies to combat the coronavirus pandemic that resulted in the health minister’s dismissal. He was finally released on bail in that case pending trial on 7 December.
Despite the promises of change that accompanied the Mugabe’s fall in 2017, the press freedom situation is still very disturbing in Zimbabwe, which is ranked 126th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.