Hopewell Chin´ono charged on ‘imparing the diginity’ of Chief Justice Malaba

Hopewell Chin'ono

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – Zimbabwe police have arrested investigative journalist, Hopewell Chin´ono on contempt of court charges, his lawyers said Tuesday.

Chin´ono recently spent nearly six weeks in prison on accusations of supporting an anti-government protest. He was released on bail in September pending trial.

Chin´ono is being held at a police station in the capital, Harare, said Roselyn Hanzi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an organization representing the outspoken journalist.

He was charged with contempt of court for making a post on Twitter that allegedly impaired the dignity of Zimbabwe´s Chief Justice Luke Malaba, said Hanzi.

If convicted Chin’ono faces a fine or up to one year in prison, according to the charge, she said.

Chin’ono is one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, accusing it of corruption and human rights abuses. The government denies the charges.

Before he was arrested in July, Chin´ono had published an expose on Twitter in which he alleged corruption involving a $60 million purchase of protective equipment for health workers. Mnangagwa later fired the health minister, who has been formally charged with corruption in the case.

Journalists´ organizations, western embassies and human rights groups at that time said Chin´ono is being punished for exposing government corruption.

The outspoken government critic was in September released on bail, after he was arrested and incarcerated in July for allegedly inciting public violence in Zimbabwe.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwean advocate and spokesperson for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, Fadzayi Mahere, confirmed Chin’ono’s release on Twitter.

“Shocked and distressed that Hopewell Chin’ono has been arrested again in Zimbabwe. Arrest now being used as a systematic strategy of intimidation and silencing in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Tanzania. #ZimbabweanLivesMatter,” tweeted Mahere.

It is believed the journalist’s arrest relates to a breach of his strict bail conditions relating to social media usage.

In September, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum said Chin’ono had been released on bail by high court judge, Justice Terrence Chitapi.

Both Chin’ono and Transform Zimbabwe political leader Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested on July 20 and held at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, while awaiting court appearances.

They were both denied bail three times.

In September, Ngarivhume was released on ZWL 50,000 bail earlier in the day and, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, “has been requested to surrender his passport, not to use his tweeter handle and to report to police three times every week”.

Chin’ono was instrumental in using his Twitter account to call out corrupt officials within the Zimbabwean government, which led to accusations that his arrest, and that of Ngarivhume, was politically motivated.

Chin’ono’s exposing corrupt politicians eventually led to the arrest and dismissal of the minister of health and childcare, Dr Obediah Moyo.

On July 7, the chief secretary to the president and cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda confirmed Moyo’s dismissal.