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Rearrest of Zimbabwe Journalist Draws Widespread Condemnation

FILE - Journalist Hopewell Chin'ono is seen at a court in Harare, Zimbabwe on August 7, 2020. (Reuters)

Hopewell Chin’ono allegedly made a disparaging social media comment against the chief judge

The rearrest of Zimbabwe journalist Hopewell Chin’ono for contempt of court is drawing condemnation from rights groups and journalists who slammed the government for curbing press freedoms.

Chin’ono was rearrested after the government accused him of violating his bail conditions by writing on social media in support of an anti-government protest and disparaging a chief judge.

Analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said the arrest is part of a pattern by the government to silence dissent and free speech.

“ It is another sad chapter in the history of Zimbabwe’s authoritarian regime to silence journalist," he said.

Ngenya said the court was wrong in banning Chin’ono from social media because it makes it impossible for him to work as a journalist and earn a living.

“Journalist are meant to be free to do their job. Journalists survive on transmitting news," he said. "There was nothing wrong for him to go back to social media."

According to the International Press Institute, which monitors press freedom violations worldwide, press freedom has rapidly declined in Zimbabwe with more than a dozen reporters arrested.

“The government has kept a tight leash on information, making it harder for independent journalists to access information," said Nqaba Matshazi, regional campaigns coordinator for the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe.

Tabani Moyo , Zimbabwe chapter director of the media institute, said the government has reneged on its pledge to respect press freedom.

“We have realized that journalist are reporting on the line of fire as opposed to the governments rhetoric, it's actually an endangered craft,” he said.

Angela Quinto, Africa program coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the government has failed to provide the atmosphere for the media to thrive.

“It is been the organs of the state, especially the police and intelligence and military who have been responsible for the assaults abduction and arrest of journalists,’’ she said.

The government denied charges of press repression. Information minister Monica. Mutswangwa said the government remains open to dialogue with on press reforms and individual liberty.

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