By Mary Taruvinga
JOURNALIST Hopewell Chin’ono, arrested Friday, says he will not apply for bail as he wants to challenge the state to withdraw its charges against him.
In a handwritten statement he handed over to journalists Monday before his court hearing at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts, Chin’ono said the Act he was being charged under was unconstitutional.
Chin’ono is facing a charge of publishing falsehoods after he tweeted that a police officer had struck and killed an infant with a baton stick in Harare last week.
The journalist was arrested last Friday and spent the weekend at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
“I have a choice today, to immediately apply for bail and go home, or to fight the constitutionality of the law used to charge me and as a result stay in prison for a couple more weeks whilst doing so,” he wrote.
“I have chosen to fight the use of this unconstitutional law used against me. If I choose to take bail without exposing the use of unconstitutional law, the same law will be used against other the journalists and ordinary citizens to muzzle them as has happened to Job Sikhala.”
Chin’ono added: “I would have totally sold out the journalism profession and the nation if I chose my immediate liberty over the media’s right to free speech and the nation’s right to speak and be protected after speaking.
“It is also important to challenge the use of this unconstitutional law so that the world can see where our judiciary stands in regards to the rule of law especially the magistrates court.”
In court, before Harare magistrate, Lazini Ncube, Chin’ono challenged his placement on remand arguing that there was no foundation for his arrest and as such, he could not be persecuted on a non-existent offence.
His lawyer Harrison Nkomo argued the firebrand journalist arrest was against Section 49 of the Constitution.
“The State has not placed on any basis for the arrest and a Constitutional Court judgment exists in the case of Constantine Chimakure and others (CCZ6 of 2014), ruling that the offence he is facing is unconstitutional as it was struck off in 2014,” Nkomo said.
“Section 31 (a)(iii) is not part of our law. The arrest is arbitrary and there is no foundation at law. Constitutionally he cannot be convicted on a law that does not exist.”
The lawyer said if an act is void, it is a nullity and the State case must fall.
“On the 14th of July 2014, a judgment was passed and the new Code being used in this country should not be there. On what basis can the State press on that in this courtroom?” the lawyer asked.
The state insisted that it will abide by its submissions because there was basis that an offence was committed.
“Freedom of expression is not absolute and has its limitations in Section 61 sub-section 5 of the Constitution. His statement was published and it undermines public confidence in the police,” said the prosecutor.