Zimbabwean authorities should immediately release independent investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono and drop the incitement charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 11 a.m. today, Chin'ono posted two short messages on his Twitter account, which are no longer available after his account was later deactivated, but which CPJ reviewed at the time, saying that police and security agents were harassing workers on his property and breaking into his home in Harare, the capital. In a livestream on Facebook, he recorded police entering his home.
In a video shared on Twitter, Chin'ono's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said that police had "abducted" her client without a warrant.
This afternoon, Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Nyathi, a police spokesperson, released a statement, which CPJ reviewed, announcing that authorities had charged Chin'ono with "incitement to participate in public violence."
"The detention of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono is yet another example of Zimbabwe's increasing intolerance toward the press and those who expose corruption allegations about the country's ruling elite," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. "Instead of detaining those responsible for stealing public funds, President Emmerson Mnangagwa's security forces would rather employ strong-arm tactics to silence the messenger. Hopewell Chin'ono must be released immediately and allowed to work freely."
Chin'ono, an award-winning journalist who writes for local and international publications, has covered alleged corruption by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in his reporting and on social media, according to media reports.
Chin'ono's reporting on alleged COVID-19 procurement fraud within the country's Ministry of Health led to the arrest and sacking of Health Minister Obadiah Moyo earlier this month, according to the BBC.
Information Ministry spokesperson Nick Mangwana did not answer a call from CPJ or reply to a text via messaging app for comment. He tweeted earlier today that no journalist was above the law.
Authorities also charged Jacob Ngarivhume, a member of the opposition Transform Zimbabwe party, with incitement today, according to the police statement. Ngarivhume has been organizing a mass protest against corruption set for later this month, according to news reports.