Zimbabwe Government Accused of Restricting Social Media 

Source: Zimbabwe Government Accused of Restricting Social Media | Voice of America – English

Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono talks to his lawyers Nov. 12, 2020, after Magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa denied him bail on grounds that he had high propensity to abuse social media again. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, 2nd from left, talks to his lawyers Nov. 12, 2020, after Magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa denied him bail on grounds that he had high propensity to abuse social media again. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

HARARE – Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was denied bail Thursday after being arrested on November 3 for a second time this year. Chin’ono is facing charges of “abusing” social media to obstruct justice.

The charge has triggered an outcry from local and international press freedom watchdogs who accuse Zimbabwe’s government of trying to stifle critical voices.

David Coltart, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who represents Chin’ono, talked to the media Thursday after his client was denied bail at the Magistrates Court.

David Coltart of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights representing journalist Hopewell Chin’ono talks to the media Nov. 12, 2020, after his client was denied bail at the Magistrates Court in Harare. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)
David Coltart of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights representing journalist Hopewell Chin’ono talks to the media Nov. 12, 2020, after his client was denied bail at the Magistrates Court in Harare. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

“From our perspective, it is clear that he is being targeted for his journalism. That was made very clear in these charges, that it is about his journalism and his sources reporting on corruption. He has been fearlessly reporting on corruption issues and that is really what this is about,” he said.

Chin’ono was arrested after he posted on Twitter a message saying “corrupt” allies of President Emmerson Mnangagwa are arrested and immediately bailed while innocent citizens remain in custody.

This is the second time that Chin’ono has been arrested this year. After his arrest in July – on accusations of supporting an anti-government protest on social media – he spent nearly six weeks in prison before being released on bail in September pending trial.

Dewa Mavhinga, the southern Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, seen here Aug. 29, 2020, in Harare, says the Zimbabwe government must investigate claims of rights abuses by state agents. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)
Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, seen here Aug. 29, 2020, in Harare, says Chin’ono’s arrest sends a warning. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

The head of Human Rights Watch in Southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, said his organization is worried by Chin’ono’s second arrest.

“It is not just about seeking to break Hopewell’s spirit, but it is also about sending a warning, to strike fear in the hearts of all journalists that they cannot challenge high level state corruption. As Human Rights Watch we are extremely concerned that Zimbabwean authorities are going and continuing on this path of repression. Tweeting is not a crime. Zimbabwe is quickly ceiling its position as a pariah state because of its heavy handiness responses to activists and journalists like Hopewell Chin’ono,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said she would not comment on the issue as the cabinet had not discussed it.

Tabani Moyo from the Media Institute of Southern Africa says the crackdown on citizens speaking out on social media is not confined to Zimbabwe, in Harare, Nov. 12, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)
Tabani Moyo from the Media Institute of Southern Africa says the crackdown on citizens speaking out on social media is not confined to Zimbabwe, in Harare, Nov. 12, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

Tabani Moyo from Media Institute of Southern Africa said the crackdown on citizens speaking out on social media is not confined to Zimbabwe.

“In August, Southern Africa Development Community heads of state and government, meeting in Maputo took a decision that they must increase surveillance of online media use and targeting of those that are disseminating views on social media. So this is not an isolated move by the Harare administration but it’s a trend we are seeing which is on the increase in the region,” said Moyo.

Meanwhile, Chin’ono’s trial for his first charges is expected to start in early December.

 

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 1
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    Kalulu 3 weeks ago

    Aha!!! Hopewell Chingono’s trial whose arrest was long after Mnangagwa’s corrupt relative Obadiah Moyo has been set for December, why is Obadiah Moyo’s trial dragging or will it ever take place, he never spent a night in a cell, his bail application despite being involved in corruption worth US60 million was not opposed by the state.

    This is Mnangagwa and Malaba’s fiefdom  for you!!!!!