Zimbabwe journalist Hopewell Chin'ono finally freed on bail

Saturday November 21 2020
Hopewell Chin'ono.

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono speaks to the press after his release on bail from Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare on September 2, 2020. PHOTO | AFP



A Zimbabwean High Court on Friday released investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono on bail, two weeks after he was arrested on charges of obstructing justice.

The journalist spent over 40 days in a Harare maximum security prison after he was arrested in July for allegedly inciting protests through Twitter posts.

He is among tens of government critics who have been detained in the past four months.

High Court judge Tawanda Chitapi ruled Friday that a magistrate’s court erred in denying Mr Chin’ono bail.

The judge, however, warned the journalist against posting messages deemed as obstructive to justice on his Twitter page.


“Justice Chitapi found that the magistrate grossly misdirected herself in denying the journalist bail,” the journalist’s lawyer Douglas Coltart said.

“He is expected to be released from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison later this evening.”

Mr Chin’ono says he is being persecuted for speaking out against corruption cases in which President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s family was implicated.

In October, a High Court judge released him on bail on condition that he does not tweet any material that incites protests.

Crackdown on dissent

The latest arrest was linked to a tweet in which the journalist said he had information that prosecutors would not challenge a bail application by a businesswoman, who had been caught at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport trying to smuggle six kilogrammes of gold to Dubai.

One of the woman's accomplices had told detectives the gold belonged to First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.

The journalist was charged with "contempt of court and defeating or obstructing the course of justice" over the tweet.

In July, Mr Chin’ono was arrested alongside Jacob Ngarivhume, an opposition leader, over their Twitter posts ahead of protests against corruption.

The protests were thwarted by security forces after the government claimed they were meant to topple President Mnangagwa.

Mr Ngarivhume was granted $600 bail while Mr Chin’ono was ordered to pay $120 for his freedom.

The duo's incarceration was met with global condemnation of President Mnangagwa’s government, which is accused of using the cover of Covid-19 to crush dissent.

A senior leader of the mainstream opposition MDC Alliance, Job Sikhala, spent over 40 days in a maximum security prison after he was arrested over the protests before he was granted bail.