By HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
THE African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) special rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Jamesina King, has written to President Emmerson Mnangagwa regarding the arrest and detention of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.
Speaking during the 67th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR, held virtually, King said she wrote to Mnangagwa on October 15 this year at a time Chin’ono was facing charges of incitement to participate in a gathering with intent to promote public violence.
Chin’ono was this month re-arrested for contempt of court and defeating the course of justice.
The award-winning journalist was denied bail by the Harare Magistrates’ Court until yesterday when High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi released him, ruling that the magistrate grossly misdirected herself in denying the accused bail.
“Journalists and other media practitioners play an important role … they provide the public with the necessary information to develop an opinion and make informed decisions,” King said.
“However, despite their indispensable role in society, journalists are often targets of threats, intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, detentions, and disappearances, in addition to physical attacks, which have sometimes resulted in murder.”
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe has urged the government to respond to King’s letter and address the pertinent issues raised on the state of freedom of the media and of expression in Zimbabwe.
“It is in the interest of the Zimbabwean government to respond to Commissioner King’s letter as this will demonstrate that it has nothing to hide, and is not deliberately targeting investigative journalists, who uncover corruption,” Misa Zimbabwe said.
“Failure to do this has the potential of sending a chilling message that investigative journalism is frowned upon, and worse still, that Zimbabwe is not willing to adhere to regional and continental instruments that it is a party to.”
Earlier this year, at its 66th Ordinary Session held virtually between July 13 and August 7, the ACHPR raised alarm at the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe, particularly the arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists and women human rights defenders.
During the meeting, the ACHPR called on the Zimbabwean government to guarantee the protection of the rights of human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, healthcare workers and other peaceful protestors, including from arbitrary arrest and detention.
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