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The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), the Southern African Editors’ Forum (SAEF) and the African Editors Forum (TAEF) welcome the release on bail of Zimbabwean journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono. We note that Justice Chitapi found that Magistrate Gofa grossly misdirected herself in denying the journalist bail. He is expected to be released from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison later this evening.

SANEF, SAEF AND TAEF call on Zimbabwean authorities to stop hounding Chin’ono, an investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. Instead we call for his unconditional release.

Chin’ono was arrested and then again re-arrested on 3 November and is facing charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice. The authorities have alleged that Chin’ono created communication lines with sources within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) who gave him access to confidential prosecutorial deliberations, which he allegedly published on social media, including Twitter, on 25 October.

The confidential information purported to show that Henrietta Rushwaya, a Zimbabwean woman allegedly caught at the Robert Mugabe International Airport trying to smuggle gold out of the country, was going to be granted bail without any opposition by NPA officials.

Prosecutors claimed that Chin’ono had jeopardised the integrity of cases against himself and that of Rushwaya.

Chin’ono has declined to reveal his sources – which is a basic principle of journalistic ethics.

Chin’ono is also facing charges of “inciting the public” after he was arrested in July for allegedly calling for anti-corruption protests. At the time, he had been involved exposing government corruption.

SANEF joins international media organisations and defenders of media freedom including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International, the Africa Editors Forum (TAEF) and the Southern African Editors Forum (SAEF) in condemning the pretrial detention over a tweet, which represents what some see as the latest effort to control social media in Zimbabwe.

SANEF, SAEF and TAEF join media organisations in appealing, once again, to Cyril Ramaphosa in his position as African Union chair, to use all available mechanisms to help secure Chin’ono’s release, and to ensure that journalists across the continent are respected as essential workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and are not jailed for their work.

Chin’ono’s detention was the latest tactic to target and harass critical voices through the misuse of the criminal justice system.

Addressing the International Press Institute Congress in Cape Town in February 1994, Nelson Mandela said: A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”

We hope that the Zimbabwe authorities will heed his counsel.

Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.

For more information please contact:

Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Chairperson (073) 404-1415

Janet Heard – SANEF Council member (078) 041-9528

Jovial Rantao – TAEF Chairperson (082) 446-6008

Willie Mponda – SAEF Chairperson + 263 71 271 8043

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected]  Website: www.sanef.org.za

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