A Zimbabwean freelance journalist was granted bail on Wednesday after languishing for 20 days in the country’s notorious Chikurubi maximum jail.
Hopewell Chin’ono was accused of publishing a false report on social media that a Harare woman lost her baby after a police officer enforcing lockdown rules hit the infant on the head. However, the police denied his claim.
On Jan. 8 when he was arrested, Chin’ono tweeted: “The police have come to arrest me! Let everyone know!”
After the court hearing, Justice Davison Moses Foroma granted him bail for 20,000 Zimbabwean dollars ($55.27).
Chin’ono was arrested three times in six months.
Before the latest arrest, Chin’ono was out on bail on separate charges of inciting violence after he voiced support for an anti-government protest in July and also on contempt of court charges for allegedly claiming corruption within the country’s national prosecution agency.
Chin’ono is one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, accusing it of corruption and human rights abuses. The government denies the charges.
Before he was arrested in July last year, Chin’ono had published an expose on Twitter in which he alleged corruption involving a $60 million purchase of protective equipment for health workers.
Mnangagwa later fired the health minister, who has been formally charged with corruption in the case. Chin’ono and his backers say he is being targeted for exposing government corruption. The government and the ruling party accused him of being out to tarnish Mnangagwa’s image.
In the Mugabe era, the authorities simply muzzled the conventional media -- but people now have access to social media.
On both the occasions that led to charges being filed against Chin'ono, they arose from posts at his Twitter account @daddyhope, where he has more than 170,000 followers.
The government, he said, "don't like his methods especially his tweets, because they get retweeted and more people get to see the stories about corruption".
His earlier work won him the CNN Journalist of the Year for Africa in 2008.