By Kumbirai Mafunda
Zimbabwean police on Friday 8 January 2021 arrested and detained prominent freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and charged him with publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State after he allegedly tweeted about the abuse of a minor by a police officer
.Chin’ono, who is represented by Harrison Nkomo and Paidamoyo Saurombe of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, was arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members and detained overnight at Harare Central Police Station.
ZRP members charged him with publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State as defined in section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The police members claim that the award-winning freelance journalist undermined public confidence in a law enforcement agency when he allegedly tweeted about an incident in which a woman and her baby were roughed up by some ZRP members in Harare early this week.
Chin’ono is expected to appear at Harare Magistrates Court on Saturday 9 January 2021.
This is the third time that the freelance journalist has been arrested in six months. He was first arrested in July 2020 and charged with inciting people to revolt against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration during some planned anti-government protests called for at the end of July.
The law enforcement agents alleged that Chin’ono had incited people to participate in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in section 187(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as read with section 37(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
ZRP members also pressed alternative charges of incitement to commit public violence as defined in section 187(1)(a) as read with section 36(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
On Tuesday 3 November 2020, Chin’ono was arrested again and charged with contempt of court as defined in section 182(1)(a) and (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act over a tweet that he allegedly posted on Twitter in October 2020.
He is yet to stand trial on all of these charges. Chin’ono’s arrest comes at a time when the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights recently expressed concern over the “deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe” and said it was alarmed by the arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists and women human rights defenders.