The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard is deeply concerned for the health and welfare of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, a 2010 Nieman Fellow who was arrested in his home in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Monday, July 20, 2020. His bail hearings have been postponed several times.*
Nieman calls for the immediate release of Chin’ono and the dismissal of the charges made against him, which were made in an attempt to silence his anti-corruption reporting.
*Editor’s note: On July 24, 2020, Chin’ono was denied bail and remanded in custody until August 7. His lawyers appealed that ruling. On August 6, Zimbabwe’s High Court once again denied him bail. On August 7, Chin’ono and politician Jacob Ngarivhume were transferred to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. Chin’ono’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said that prison officials stopped him from wearing his COVID-19 protective goggles in prison—ostensibly because they could be fitted with surveillance cameras, which is a security threat—but a move that further endangers his health.
Nieman has joined with other press freedom and human rights organizations in appealing to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, currently chair of the African Union, for urgent action in Chin’ono’s case, and on behalf of all journalists jailed across Africa. From the letter:
We the undersigned press freedom and human rights organizations call on you as Chair of the African Union, and as the President of the Republic of South Africa to use all available mechanisms to help secure the immediate release of jailed Zimbabwean investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, and to ensure that journalists across the continent are respected as essential workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and are not jailed for their work.
On the 20th of July Mr. Chin’ono was arrested and taken from his home in Harare. Reports from his lawyer, Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa, indicate that Mr. Chin’ono was abducted without a warrant. According to a statement by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mr. Chin’ono has been charged with “incitement to commit public violence” and inciting the public to commit public violence.” It would appear however, that Mr. Chin’ono was arrested for his reporting on corruption and wrongdoing. Such appalling behaviour by the Zimbabwean authorities cannot be countenanced.
Other signatories include Media Monitoring Africa, the South African National Editors Forum, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), the Southern African Editors Forum (SAEF), SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, Civicus and the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism.
On social media, Chin’ono recently supported anti-corruption protests scheduled for July 31. Those rallies were organized by opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume, who was also arrested and charged with incitement. Ngarivhume’s bail has been denied. Chin’ono’s Twitter account (@daddyhope) has been disabled and his posts are no longer available.
A prominent investigative reporter, Chin’ono has frequently exposed government corruption and its effects on the people of Zimbabwe. He and other journalists recently exposed corrupt contracts for COVID-19 supplies—reporting that led President Mnangagwa to fire health minister Obadiah Moyo.
As journalist and fellow Nieman alum Fungai Tichawangana writes in Nieman Reports, Chin’ono’s arrest is just the latest in a long string of attacks on press freedom in Zimbabwe, where politicians have often used threats and arrests to intimidate journalists.
What Hopewell Chin’ono’s Arrest Says about the Free Press in Zimbabwe
The new regime in Zimbabwe continues the country’s legacy of intimidation and targeting of journalists, including Nieman fellow Hopewell Chin’ono
In Africa, Press Freedom Can Be a Matter of Life and Death
Recent incidents, including Hopewell Chino’ono’s arrest and government repression of coronavirus-related news, underscore the perilous state of freedom of the press in many African nations
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono arrested, charged with incitement in Zimbabwe
Via the Committee to Protect Journalists