A prominent journalist and a political party leader have been charged with “incitement to participate in public violence” in Zimbabwe.
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and head of the Transform Zimbabwe party Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested in the country’s capital Harare on Monday.
Lawyers for the two men told Sky News that their detention forms part of a pattern of increasing state intimidation against critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.
Mr Chin’ono tried to live stream his arrest on Facebook as security agents entered his house and banged on his bedroom door.
Over the past three months, the journalist has revealed the existence of controversial contracts linking senior members of the ruling ZANU-PF party with well-connected businessmen.
His work led to the arrest and dismissal of the Zimbabwean health minister, Obadiah Moyo, who has been accused of “inappropriate conduct” for his role in a multi-million-pound medical equipment scandal.
Mr Chin’ono’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, told Sky News that security agents broke through a window in the journalist’s house and detained him without producing a warrant.
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“He has been taken to the ‘law and order’ section of [Harare’s] main police station and dumped there,” she said.
“Now they have to find something to charge him with. They always do it this way.”
Later, the well-known journalist was charged with inciting anti-government demonstrations planned for the end of the month, although it is his work on corruption in the ruling party that is thought to have angered officials.
“Chin’ono has taken the bread out of the mouths of some important people in Zimbabwe,” said Ms Mtetwa.
Mr Ngarivhume, who was also arrested, had run an internet campaign calling for nationwide anti-corruption protests on 31 July, using the hashtag #ZanuPFMustGo.
Authorities said the proposed demonstrations breach lockdown regulations on public gatherings.
Shortly after both men were arrested, government spokesman Nick Mangwana wrote on Twitter: “There is no profession which is above the law. Journalists are not above the law… Anyone suspected to have committed a crime should be subjected to due process.”
The arrests have triggered anger and concern from the diplomatic community. Human rights and press freedom organisations have called for their immediate release.
The British Embassy in Zimbabwe wrote on Twitter: “Following closely reports of the arrests of Hopewell Chin’ono & Jacob Ngarivhume today. Urge the authorities to follow the rule of law and uphold media freedoms and freedom of speech #ActiononReform.”
The European Union also said it was “concerned” about the arrests and called for the release of Mr Chin’ono.
“Journalism is not a crime, but a crucial pillar of any democratic society & of the fight against corruption. Journalists and freedom of expression deserve protection,” it said in a tweet.
Source : Sky News