Is Zimbabwe criminalising dissent?

The recent arrest and detention of three prominent critics of Zimbabwe’s government is again raising concerns over how laws are applied against voices of dissent.

Independent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was taken into police custody on January 8 after he published social media posts about the alleged killing of a baby by a police officer in Harare. Police later said the baby was alive, but the true identity of its mother remains murky. Chin’ono faces charges of spreading ‘falsehoods’, and remains in Chikurubi prison after being denied bail.

Two senior members of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC) were later arrested on the same charge after they also published social media posts about the alleged police brutality incident. Job Sikhala is remanded in custody, while Fadzayi Mahere is out on bail.

A Zanu-PF spokesman says the law was applied fairly, as per the separation of powers expected in a constitutional democracy. But human rights groups including Amnesty International are alarmed at the latest arrests and say Zimbabwean law is being weaponised against those trying to hold authorities to account.

As people across Zimbabwe continue to struggle with poor job prospects and high inflation and wonder aloud about the future under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, we’ll look at what the latest arrest of government critics suggests about free expression in Zimbabwe – and what may happen next.

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zimbabwe, criminalizing, dissent, arrests, activists
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