Zimbabwe police detain prominent journalist, protest leader

Zimbabwe journalist Hopewell Chino'ono, left, speaks to state media during the launch of his documentary, State of Mind, in Harare, in this Oct. 10, 2018 photo. Zimbabwe police on Monday July 20, 2020, swooped in and detained Hopewell Chino'ono, the prominent journalist and opposition leader, ahead of anti-government protests planned for the end of this month, their lawyers said. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe police on Monday swooped in and detained a prominent journalist and an opposition leader ahead of anti-government protests planned for the end of this month, their lawyers said.

The journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, has a huge following on Twitter, where he regularly posts about alleged government corruption. He has also been using his account to encourage Zimbabweans to speak out and act against corruption.

“They are breaking into my home. Alert the world!” Chin’ono tweeted as police raided his home. His lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said he is detained at a police station in the capital, Harare, but is being denied access to lawyers.

“Political intimidation of the press has no place in democracies,” tweeted the U.S. embassy in Harare, which in the past has been accused by the ruling party of “sponsoring” Chin’ono.

The organizer of the planned July 31 protest, opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume, is also in police custody, said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which is providing lawyers for him.

Charges against both men are not yet clear, the lawyers said.

Journalists, lawyers, doctors and nurses are among hundreds of people who have been arrested in recent months in Zimbabwe for protesting, striking for better pay or, in some cases, simply doing their work as tensions rise in the troubled southern African country.

A deteriorating economy and reports of widespread corruption linked to government contracts for the purchase of COVID-19 personal protective gear and drugs amid poor service delivery have further stoked public anger.