The attack on journalists is an attack on democracy

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The attack on journalists is an attack on democracy

Chin’ono’s crime was using Twitter to criticize Zimbabwe’s government, writes Nanjala Nyabola. As I write, Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono is in a high-security prison in Harare, again. They dragged him through the courtroom in leg irons. Chin’ono’s crime was using Twitter to criticize Zimbabwe’s government. It seems this was against his bail conditions. This time he asked questions about a senior government official. It seems that the government official was smuggling gold. They only released Chin’ono in October 2020 after another arrest for using social media to criticize the state.

Chin’ono is not the only African journalist to suffer this kind of violence in recent months. On 10 November 2020, they arrested Ethiopian journalist Bekalu Alamrew for his reporting on the crisis in the country’s Tigray region. Towards the end of October 2020, they beat and arrested many Angolan journalists because they were writing about anti-government protests. In Burundi, journalists from the independent newspaper Iwacu marked one year in prison for the crime of ‘undermining state security’. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that around the world 22 journalists were killed and 248 imprisoned in 2020.This shows that democracy is in danger around the world. The statistics from the last 10 years show that journalism is still a very dangerous job. The numbers of journalists killed has happily decreased in the last two years. But arrests for no reason and without a time limit, like those suffered by Chin’ono, are more and more common. States are using vague laws, particularly on new media, to intimidate and harass journalists. For digital journalists, bloggers and activists in particular, vague criminal law is now the way to keep power. When journalists start dying then so does democracy.

Particularly in countries like Zimbabwe, journalists have never enjoyed peace under the present government. This shows that the government was still going to continue the military rule it replaced. In places like Kenya, government actions can seem less severe when you compare them with other countries. Here they often arrest bloggers and hold them overnight as acts of intimidation. But again this shows that the interests of power have made the quality of government worse. Of course, the question is what can people do about it? Zimbabwean activists have raised the alarm about Chin’ono. Other groups have also protested about different cases of arbitrary arrest and detention. It is awful that they often stop political prisoners from having visits and do not protect their physical safety just to intimidate them more. We must pay attention to what is happening to these people. At the very least, we must make sure that we do not lose democracy.


(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)