Joint statement on the arrest of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono in Zimbabwe
The recent arrest of a whistle-blower journalist Hopewell Chin’ono in Zimbabwe is a serious concern to Transparency International Chapters in Southern Africa, particularly as it undermines broader efforts to address widespread corruption.
While charges are yet to be brought, and due process in court has not yet begun, there is substantial concern that the power of the state is being used to gag the constitutional right of government critics to freedom of expression and to expose malpractices such as corruption.
On the 20th of July 2020, investigative journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, was arrested on allegations of “inciting public violence”. However, reports suggest that the arrest come following a series of revelations into cases of alleged corruption within the government, include the Drax International scandal.
We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to recognise the constitutional and democratic right of all Zimbabwean citizens to voice concerns over weak public procurement processes and mal-administration of public funds. Exposing such practices should not be used as an excuse to invade the privacy and thwart the constitutional right to freely expressing themselves.
The Government has, on numerous occasions, reaffirmed its desire to fight corruption. It is important that political rhetoric should be coupled with systems and actions that protect whistle-blowers, respect human rights and freedoms of expression as guaranteed in the Constitution of Zimbabwe’s Bill of Rights, as well as strengthening institutions to be impartial in fulfilling their mandates. A failure to do so will undermine anti-corruption efforts at the expense of the Zimbabwean people.
Against this backdrop, Transparency International Chapters in Southern Africa caution that such moves are retrogressive and counter-productive in the genuine fight against corruption. Instead, the arrest of individuals who seek to highlight concerns or share information on corruption-related activities sends a chilling message to the international community and highlight shrinking civic space concerns in Zimbabwe and in the Sub-region as a whole.
We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to:
- Prevent the harassment and intimidation of anti-corruption whistle-blowers.
- Pass the Whistle-blowers protection Act that fully protects all witnesses of corruption
- Respect the human rights of its citizens as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
- We also reiterate the importance of protecting civic space in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, and highlight that responsible journalism is key to effective crisis responses. Civic space should be protected to facilitate informed reporting and the sharing of information on the response to coronavirus.
Transparency International Zimbabwe
Centro de Integridade Pública (Mozambique)
Transparency International Initiative Madagascar
Botswana Centre for Public Integrity
Transparency International Zambia
National Integrity Platform
Corruption Watch (South Africa)
Transparency International press office
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