Police and soldiers are seen at a roadblock in Harare, Zimbabwe, on July 24, 2020. CPJ recently joined a letter to UN and AU rapporteurs expressing concern about free expression in the country. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

CPJ joins letter to UN and AU rapporteurs expressing concern about free expression in Zimbabwe

The Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday joined the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights groups in an open letter to six special rapporteurs at the UN and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, expressing concern about the targeting of journalists and human rights defenders in Zimbabwe.

The organizations note that Zimbabwe authorities arrested freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and New York Times correspondent Jeffrey Moyo in the first half of 2021 alone, and said they were particularly concerned that the arrests and charges against journalists and human rights defenders were politically motivated and violated their human rights, including their personal liberty and freedom of expression.

The letter said that the groups were encouraged by a January statement by Jamesina King, the African Union’s special rapporteur for freedom of expression and access to information, expressing concern about Chin’ono’s arrest, and the organizations urged the UN and AU special rapporteurs to follow through on that statement in light of the significant escalation in harassment since then.

The groups also expressed concern about the proposed Patriotic Bill, a piece of legislation that seeks to prohibit public messages on international platforms or to foreign governments that the Zimbabwe government deems harmful to its image. The letter stated that, if passed, that law would be another vehicle to target dissidents, human rights defenders, and journalists.

The letter can be read in full here.