A prominent journalist in Zimbabwe has been arrested on charges of “incitement to participate in public violence” for exposing government corruption involving coronavirus supplies.
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono streamed his arrest live on Facebook before being told by his captors to put his phone down.
The US embassy called Mr. Chin’ono’s arrest deeply concerning, while his lawyer called it an abduction.
Over the past three months, the journalist has revealed the existence of controversial contracts linking senior members of the ruling ZANU-PF party with well-connected businessmen.
His work led to the arrest and dismissal of the Zimbabwean health minister, Obadiah Moyo, who has been accused of “inappropriate conduct”.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa fired Mr. Moyo earlier this month over the US$60m (£47.5m) medicines supply scandal.
Mr. Chin’ono’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said that security agents broke through a window in the journalist’s house and detained him without producing a warrant.
“We’re not sure where he has been taken. His helper says they did not produce any warrant when they came to his house,” human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said in a video statement.
Motioning to a smashed patio door at Mr. Chin’ono’s home, Ms. Mtetwa said eight or so security agents were involved in the raid.
Meanwhile, opposition politician, Jacob Ngarivhume of Transform Zimbabwe has also been arrested in Harare on the same charges.
In a statement, Zimbabwe’s police appeared to confirm that the two arrests were connected.
Campaign group Amnesty accused Zimbabwean authorities of “misusing the criminal justice system to persecute journalists and activists” and said “the arrests of Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume are designed to intimidate”.
Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC party said the state was persecuting a journalist for exposing government corruption.
A government official later responded by tweeting that journalists were not above the law.
Jacob Ngarivhumewho leads a tiny opposition party appeared to be organising plans for an anti-government protest on July 31.
Like Hopewell Chin’ono, the opposition politician was detained in the capital, Harare, on Monday in what critics said was a concerted move to stifle criticism of the government.
BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding says the incident comes at a time of rising tensions in Zimbabwe, with hyperinflation strangling the economy, and talk of a new round of mass protests against Zanu-PF, the party that has run the country since independence.
Zimbabwe’s government promised reforms and economic growth after former President Robert Mugabe was ousted from power three years ago.
But critics say it has reverted to its old habits of repression and corruption. (Source: BBC)