«Recent developments in Zimbabwe are deeply worrying. The work of human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society organisations is essential to support reforms that stand the test of time. Upholding constitutional rights is a principle which cannot be compromised» the European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on his Twitter micro blog.
A court ruled on July 24 that a journalist charged with inciting violence was a danger to the public and extended his detention until August, while the United Nations and the European Union expressed concern that authorities could be violating the fundamental freedoms.
Hopewell Chin’ono (pictured) and opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested on July 20 on allegations of promoting planned protests against corruption in government on July 31, which police insisted degraded to violence.
Both arrested, who deny the charges, face up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted.
Chin’ono’s lawyer Doug Coltart said a Harare magistrate had ruled that the journalist “is a danger to the public because he has not yet completed his mission of inciting people to demonstrate on 31 July.”
Chin’ono, who has gained a following on social media by being critical of the government’s handling of the economy and corruption, told reporters as he was being taken to prison cells: “Journalism has been criminalised. The struggle against corruption should continue. People should not stop, they should carry on with it.”
He will be kept in prison until the next court hearing on August, Coltart said he would appeal the ruling extending his detention until that hearing.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement it was concerned by allegations that Zimbabwean authorities may be using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to clamp down on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“Merely calling for a peaceful protest or participating in a peaceful protest are an exercise of recognised human rights,” it said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed an overnight curfew and tighter restrictions on movement from July 22 to combat rising coronavirus infections. But activists say the measures are meant to stop the July 31 protests.
Image above: Hopewell Chin’ono Facebook page