Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube has condemned the arrest of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and senior MDC-Alliance party members — Job Sikhala and Fadzayi Mahere — saying the incarceration tramples upon civil liberties.
In a statement, Ncube, who is a member of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s advisory council, said the state should direct its attention on allegations of police brutality to fulfil its duties of ensuring safety of citizens.
The trio is accused of communicating falsehoods after they allegedly posted on social media that a police officer had killed a nine-month-old baby.
Police dismissed the reports.
However, Chin’ono, Sikhala and Mahere are challenging their placement on remand arguing that Section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act under which they are charged is “non-existent”. The magistrates handling the cases have since ruled that the law was never struck off.
Ncube said charging the three under a law that was struck down by the Constitutional Court in 2014 was a violation of their right to free speech.
“Zimbabwe’s constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression and the state must curtail its assault of this right,” he said.
“Over the past six months, Hopewell Chin’ono has been in and out of the courts and the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on charges relating to his work as a journalist. An attack on Chin’ono’s right to freedom of expression limits the right of citizens to know what is going on in the country.
“The response of the state should be to set the record straight not arrest or harass those who express themselves freely.”
Human rights activists and foreign embassies have strongly criticised the government over the arrests.