Prominent journalist Chin’ono arrested and charged for tweet

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Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested and charged for “communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state”, a charge which was repealed by the Zimbabwean constitution in 2014.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.