Amnesty International has strongly condemned the recent arrest of journalists and opposition party leaders calling on Zimbabwean authorities to immediately and unconditionally release and drop the malicious charges against them.
The statement was released following the appearance in court of journalist Hopewell Chinóno and MDC Alliance leaders Job Sikhala and Fadzayi Mahere with Amnesty International saying this was part of a growing crackdown on opposition leaders, human rights defenders, activists, journalists and other critical voices.
Chin’ono, Sikhala and Mahere, were arrested between January 8 and 11 this year on charges related to “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state”.
“The latest arrests of Hopewell Chin’ono, Job Sikhala and Fadzayi Mahere are part of a growing crackdown on opposition leaders, human rights defenders, activists, journalists and other critical voices. It is consistent with the constant harassment and intimidation that we have seen against anyone who demands respect for human rights, transparency, and accountability in Zimbabwe in the recent past,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
“Zimbabwean authorities must stop treating human rights with contempt and start tolerating dissenting views.”
Chin’ono was arrested on January 8 on charges of “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state”.
He has since been denied bail at the Harare Magistrates’ Court.
He was accused of publishing a story on Twitter about an incident involving a police officer allegedly beating up a woman in Harare’s central business district while dispersing a crowd during the enforcement of COVID-19 regulations.
Sikhala was arrested on January 9 after he appeared at Rotten Row magistrates’ court in Harare as part of Chin’ono’s defence team.
He has since appeared before a magistrate on January 11 facing similar charges.
Mahere, a lawyer and MDC-A spokesperson, handed herself over to the police on January 11 over the same issue after they started looking for her the previous day.
She was arrested and appeared at the Harare Magistrates’Court on Janiary 12 on the same charges. where to buy viagra in stores
Chin’ono and Mahere are challenging the constitutionality of the charges against them.
If they are convicted, they may be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment of up to 20 years or both depending on the gravity of the case against them.
“Authorities must stop using COVID-19 regulations as a pretext for human rights violations and abuses. The government must stop treating dissenters as enemies of the state and allow human rights including the right to freedom of expression to thrive,” Mwananyanda said.