A Zimbabwean journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, has been re-arrested for alleged contempt of court.
His crime? He used microblogging platform, Twitter.
Zimbabwean police arrested journalist Hopewell Chin’ono at his home in Harare, the capital, on Wednesday and charged him with contempt of court for an October 28 tweet citing judges’ alleged criticism of Zimbabwean Chief Justice Luke Malaba, a Twitter post by Rose Hanzi, executive director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said.
Chin’ono was charged with violating Section 182(1)(a) or (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act because he allegedly “impaired the dignity” of Malaba, as the law states. The violation carries a penalty of up to a year in prison or fine of 1,200 Zimbabwean dollars (US$15), or both, according to Zimbabwe’s legal code, Hanzi’s tweet added.
“Today’s arrest, the latest incident in a pattern of harassment and censorship against journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, speaks volumes about the pettiness of authorities who are determined to punish him and see him return to jail for his opinions and commentary,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator.
“This spurious charge should be withdrawn immediately and Hopewell Chin’ono must be free to report and comment without fear of reprisal.”
Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi on Wednesday said, “I can confirm that Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested on Tuesday and is currently in police custody waiting to appear in court.
Zimbabwean police earlier said Chin’ono was using his Twitter handle to “undermine the integrity of the courts.’’
Chin’ono was out on bail after spending more than a month in pre-trial custody facing charges of inciting mass demonstrations. The terms of that bail prohibit him from posting on Twitter.
The journalist was arrested in July on charges of incitement to violence, after tweets he made in the run-up to a planned opposition protest. He could still face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The protest he was accused of being involved in barely got off the ground due to a heavy security presence.
Chin’ono’s investigations into alleged graft surrounding supplies for the coronavirus pandemic led to the sacking and arrest of health minister Obadiah Moyo.
Chin’ono was released on bail September 2 after spending 44 days in pre-trial detention on charges of incitement following his journalistic and social media coverage of alleged corruption by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
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