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.
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.
At that time, Chin’ono was facing charges of incitement to participate in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry or alternatively incitement to commit public violence.
The journalist, was, however, rearrested on fresh charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
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.
“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.”
MISA Zimbabwe position
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.
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.
Earlier this year, at its 66th Ordinary Session held virtually between 13 July and 7 August, the ACHPR raised alarm at the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe, particularly the arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists and women human rights defenders.
During that meeting, the ACHPR called on the Zimbabwean government to guarantee the protection of the rights of human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, healthcare workers and other peaceful protestors, including from arbitrary arrest and detention.