Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono arrested after exposing government corruption

A Zimbabwean journalist, who recently exposed the country’s endemic corruption, has been charged with inciting public violence.

Hopewell Chin’ono was taken from his home in Harare on Monday by eight “state security agents” who broke windows to gain entry and did not produce any warrant, his lawyer said.

Mr Chin'ono tried to live stream his arrest on Facebook as security agents entered his house and banged on his bedroom door.

An opposition politician, Jacob Ngarivhume, 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.

The US embassy called Mr Chin'ono's arrest deeply concerning, while his lawyer called it an abduction.

"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.

Chin’ono, a well-known and internationally respected reporter, recently published documents that raised concerns that powerful individuals in Zimbabwe were profiting from multimillion-dollar deals for essential supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Chin'ono's reporting on alleged Covid-19 procurement fraud within the health ministry led to the arrest and sacking of Health Minister Obadiah Moyo.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa fired Mr Moyo earlier this month for "inappropriate conduct" over the $60m (£47.5m) medicines supply scandal.

Zimbabwe's opposition MDC party said the state was persecuting a journalist for exposing government corruption.

Police said he would be charged with “incitement to participate in public violence”, an accusation that is thought to be linked to a forthcoming protest against corruption organised by activists and opposition politicians.

The arrests prompted a strong reaction from human rights campaigners and western powers.

The British embassy in Harare urged authorities to follow the rule of law and uphold media freedoms and freedom of speech.”

There have been a series of abductions of critics of the government in recent months in Zimbabwe, and dozens over the last two years.

Chin’ono’s twitter account, which is widely followed in Zimbabwe, appeared to have been deactivated on Tuesday. It is unclear how, or by whom.

Nick Mangwana, Zimbabwe’s secretary for information, said on Twitter earlier on Monday that “no profession [is] above the law”.

“Journalists are not above the law. Lawyers are not above the law. Doctors and nurses are not above the law. Politicians and bankers are not above the law. Anyone suspected to have committed a crime should be subjected to due process,” Mangwana said.

The European Union said it was "concerned" about the arrests and called for the release of Mr Chin'ono.

"Journalism is not a crime, but a crucial pillar of any democratic society & of the fight against corruption. Journalists and freedom of expression deserve protection," it said in a tweet.

Zimbabwe’s government has been criticised for failing to deal with corruption at a time when the country is in desperate need of an international bailout package to save the economy from collapse.