CIVICUS

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Zimbabwe

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Last updated on 22.03.2021 at 10:55

The Civic Space Developments

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Prominent journalist Chin’ono arrested and charged for tweet

Prominent journalist Chin’ono arrested and charged for tweet

journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, MDC alliance spokesperson, arrested and charged for “communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state;

Expression

On 8th January 2021, prominent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested and charged for “communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state”, a charge which was repealed by the Zimbabwean constitution in 2014. The charge was in relation to his tweet that a Zimbabwean police officer enforcing the COVID-19 national lockdown beat a toddler to death. According to the police, who refuted the claims, the toddler was still alive and was never assaulted by the police. Chin’ono was released on bail on 27th January 2021 after spending almost three weeks in detention. MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzai Mahere was also arrested and charged for the same offence in relation to the same story, and released on bail after seven days in custody.

This latest arrest was not Chin’ono’s first in recent months. As previously reported on the Monitor, he was arrested on 20th July 2020, ahead of the 31st July protests (see below in peaceful assembly section), after he exposed corruption in the procurement of COVID-19 supplies, and was released on bail on 2nd September 2020 on condition that he would not use his twitter account to “incite the holding of mass demonstrations.”

Peaceful Assembly

On the day of the planned 31st July protests, people took to the streets in Harare to protest government corruption and economic decline. The protests were however dispersed by the police, who cited COVID-19 restrictions and arrested several protesters.

Among those arrested, award-winning Zimbabwean author and Booker Prize nominee Tsitsi Dangarembga and eleven others were released on bail, as reported on 1st August 2020. Dangarembga was charged with incitement to commit violence and breaching anti-coronavirus health regulations.

Association

The right to freedom of association is guaranteed under Zimbabwe’s constitution. However,

The right to freedom of association is guaranteed under Zimbabwe’s constitution. However, adherence to this right is not reflected in domestic laws and regulations, nor in practice. Associations are subject to mandatory registration requirements through complex registration procedures, with severe penalties (including fines and imprisonment) for operating as an unregistered group.Associations can be denied legal recognition on broad and politically motivated grounds, with no clear timeframe for review or appeal processes. Foreign funding is restricted for organisations engaged in voter educating programmes, which is matched by hostile government rhetoric against groups that receive foreign funding. NGOs and their leaders are also subject to routine harassment and intimidation.

Peaceful Assembly

Anti-government protests have proliferated in Zimbabwe since June 2016, as the country heads towards elections in 2018.

Anti-government protests have proliferated in Zimbabwe since June 2016, as the country heads towards elections in 2018. Between July 5 and July 15, 2016 at least 300 people were arrested and charged with violating provisions of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act after participating in peaceful protests over economic mismanagement by the government. Police have responded to the wave of protests by indiscriminately using water cannons, teargas, and batons against peaceful protestors.

Expression

Freedom of expression is guaranteed under Zimbabwe’s constitution, but this right is undermined by a repressive legal framework.

Freedom of expression is guaranteed under Zimbabwe’s constitution, but this right is undermined by a repressive legal framework. Throughout 2015, at least 10 journalists were arrested for writing articles critical of government officials and faced charges under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The government is also developing a Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill that would severely limit citizens’ access to information, monitor private communications, and impose prison sentences on violators. Human rights defender Itai Dzamara was forcible disappeared on 9 March 2015. State authorities, who have denied involvement in his abduction, have conducted no meaningful investigations into his disappearance. In August 2016, Pastor Evan Mawarire- organiser of the #ThisFlag campaign, was forced to flee Zimbabwe on the basis of threats and judicial harassment.