Free Hopewell Chin’ono!
ZIMBABWEAN journalist Hopewell Chin'ono was arrested in Harare on 20 July after exposing government corruption involving coronavirus supplies. He live-streamed his arrest before being told to put his phone down - BBC Africa has the footage.
The Freelance comments:
Hopewell is of course not the only journalist under arrest in these increasigly authoritarian times, in Africa and worldwide. He does have a connection with London Freelance Branch. We urge the government of Zimbabwe to release him immediately and to respect the necessary role of journalists in holding them and others to account.
London Freelance Branch has now sent Hopewell's lawyers a message of support:
London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists offers its full support to our Zimbabwean colleague Hopewell Chin'ono whose arrest on charges of "inciting violence" has followed his exposure of widespread corruption and looting by the government of his country.
Colleagues in Harare note that Hopewell is an award-winning documentary film maker and international journalist. He has done work as ITV News Africa Field Producer and as a New York Times correspondent. He has spent the past few months accumulating evidence and exposing the widescale corruption and looting of the present government, including the fate of US$60m covid-19 supplies.
The day after his arrest the police issued the statement below:
It is alleged that the @daddyhope Twitter account carried messages including:
@Ngarivhume and many others have come to put their hands up and said they will lead anti-looting demo on 31 July
Zimbabwe will never be free from looters through elections it is just a waste of time
If you feel like shouting #zanuPFMustGo and Mnangagwa and his regime has failed, how they will go will be determined by history and yet Mnangagwa refuses change will come by any means.
The police claim that by posting such messages he intended to "disturb the peace, security or order of the public".
Amnesty International said of Hopewell's arrest, and the simultaneous arrest of an opposition politician:
The arrests of Hopewell Chin'ono and Jacob Ngarivhume are designed to intimidate and send a chilling message to journalists, whistleblowers and activists who draw attention to matters of public interest in Zimbabwe
24 July 2020
The international Committee to Protect Journalists has co-signed a letter to Cyril Ramaphosa, the chair of the African Union and the president of South Africa, calling on him to "use all means available" to secure Hopewell's release - and to ensure that journalists across the continent are respected as essential workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and that they are not jailed for their work, in line with the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, adopted in 2019 by the African Union's Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
In an initial alert on 20 July the CPJ said:
Zimbabwean authorities should immediately release independent investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono and drop the incitement charges against him.
The International Federation of Journalists adds:
We call on Zimbabwean authorities to stop this type of intimidation to silence journalists. Chin'ono is a well-respected journalist who has just been doing his job as a reporter. He must be freed immediately.
10 August 2020
A court again denied bail to Hopewell. And South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed two new special envoys to the country "following recent reports of difficulties that the Republic of Zimbabwe is experiencing".
23 August 2020
Hopewell Chin'ono is still in custody. On 18 August a court banned prominent lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa from representing him, finding her in contempt over social media posts that she denies making (full judgment here). The International Federation of Journalists condemned this move, calling the move "an attack against the journalist's right of defense" and demanding a fair trial.