Zimbabwean journalist Chin’ono denied bail

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono in Harare in September 2020.

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono in Harare in September 2020.

Photo credit: Jekesai Njikizana | AFP

A Zimbabwean court on Thursday denied prominent journalist and government critic Hopewell Chin’ono bail nearly a week after he was arrested for allegedly communicating falsehoods.

Mr Chin’ono was arrested for the third time in six months last Friday after he tweeted that a police officer had allegedly beaten an infant to death while enforcing Covid-19 regulations.

Police later said the baby, who was allegedly bludgeoned while strapped on her mother’s back, was alive.

Two senior officials from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance – Fadzayi Mahere, who is the party’s spokesperson, and Job Sikhala, the deputy chairperson – were also charged over the same issue and are seeking bail.

Harare magistrate Lanzini Ncube said Mr Chin’ono is likely to commit more crimes if he is released on bail because he had committed the offences while waiting to go to court on two similar offences.

The journalist will remain in prison until the next court hearing on February 18. His lawyers are, however, expected to appeal against the bail ruling at the High Court.

Western embassies have expressed concern over the treatment of the three.

“We are following the arrests of Fadzayi Mahere and Job Sikhala after Hopewell Chin’ono’s arrest Friday,” the British embassy in Harare said.

“We are concerned too by reports of ill health of (Harare mayor) Jacob Mafume, who is held in Harare.

“It is important that the law is equally applied to all and the rights of prisoners are upheld including during Covid-19.”

The Harare mayor, who is also a senior MDC Alliance official, was arrested nearly a month ago on corruption allegations.

His lawyers say he is seriously ill with Covid-19 symptoms.

Mr Chin’ono’s lawyers had argued that the journalist was being charged under a law that was declared unconstitutional by the courts as far back as 2017.

Ms Mahere and Mr Sikhala were out on bail after they were arrested in July last year for their alleged role in protests against rampant corruption.

On the other hand, Mr Chin’ono was detained twice last year over his tweets that were critical of President Mnangagwa’s administration.

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