“Freedom of expression is universal and not just a preserve for the anti-establishment!” reads a twitter message from Permanent Secretary for Information in Zimbabwe, Nick Mangwana.
Freedom of expression and the media has been under siege in Zimbabwe for quite some time, but dwelling on recent events, the state is declaring a standoff against free expression as enshrined in the Zimbabwean constitution.
On 20 July, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested and charged with the incitement to participate in a gathering with the intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry or alternatively incitement to commit public violence as stated in the Criminal Law.
He applied for bail but was denied twice on the 27th of July and on the 6th of August as he failed to “demonstrate any misdirection of fact, law or fact made by the learned magistrate in a quo as would justify interference with his judgement.”
Chin’ono had been extensively using Twitter to denounce rot and corruption in the current government.
He played a pivotal role in boosting the visibility of the anti-corruption campaign on social media and also in unearthing the Drax corruption scandal.
If we were to turn the tables, flip the coin and see how justice has been served on the other side you would realize that the exposed, then health minister Obadiah Moyo was granted bail a day after his arrest. Drax International representative, Delish Nguwaya was denied at the magistrate court and had to go to High Court but he was also granted bail
This is just a reflection of the flip side.
On another case, on the 30th of July police ransacked the home of prominent ZimLive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu, who upon realizing he was not home arrested his four relatives.
It was believed by the state that Mathuthu was in possession of subversive material that was going to be used on the 31st of July planned demonstrations against corruption.
In essence, the government of Zimbabwe is waging a war against journalism and the freedom to speak truth to power.
It is the duty of the media as the fourth estate to keep the government in check, speak for the people and even give the citizens a platform for their voices to be heard. Inclusive governance is a consultative process.
Freedom of expression is a basic fundamental right, which should not scare the state but must be used to demand accountability and foster national development.