Chin’ono was due to travel to Johannesburg where he was to deliver a keynote address at the Nat Nakasa Awards Gala dinner on Saturday 14 August 2021 but his passport could not be returned.
Chin’ono was supposed to have travelled out of Harare on Friday afternoon to attend the SANEF-organised awards only for the court to technically block him.
It is said the court was made aware that he was meant to depart from Harare on Friday, 13 August, on an 08:15am flight. His travelling itinerary was provided to the court.
“I am saddened to let you know that I won’t be able to attend the Nat Nakasa Awards gala tomorrow in South Africa after the High Court of Zimbabwe failed to make a ruling on my application to have my passport released.
“I had been invited to be the guest of honour at this event [organised] by the South African National Editor’s Forum. My lawyers have advised me not to make any further comments on this issue,” said Chin’ono.
The awards organisers, South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) castigated the Zimbabwe High Court’s role in the failure to grant journalist Hopewell Chin’ono permission to travel.
“The Zimbabwean High Court declined to release renowned journalist Hopewell Chin’ono’s passport,” the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) reported.
“The same court had released Chin’ono’s passport and permitted Chin’ono to travel to Johannesburg in December on a different matter. But this time, he was informed that one of his bail conditions was having his passport withheld.
“Chin’ono applied to the Court last week Friday, 6 August 2021, for his passport to be released. The court acknowledged the urgency of the matter when the application was made, but disappointingly, it is yet to make a ruling.
“Any ruling now will be an academic exercise as Chin’ono will not be able to retrieve the passport, get a COVID-19 test done and then travel in time for the event.
“Chin’ono is not a flight risk as he has demonstrated before that he adheres to the conditions set by the court and has returned to Zimbabwe previously.
“It is regrettable that Chin’ono continues to be a victim of the Zimbabwean government’s political persecution.
“Journalism is not a crime, and journalists should not be treated like common criminals for practicing their craft.
“Chin’ono has spent eighty-five days in various Zimbabwean jails between 20 July 2020, and 27 January 2021 – all on the basis of trumped-up charges.
SANEF urged the Zimbabwean government to uphold the constitutional rights of all of its citizens, and not just journalists.
The forum said no democracy “in our opinion, can prosper without a robust and independent press” and no democratic society should prosecute journalists.
“We continue to call on the regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to exert pressure on Zimbabwe to allow journalists to do their work without any fear of intimidation and persecution.
“SANEF invited Chin’ono to highlight the difficult working conditions for journalists in the region and the continent.
“Nat Nakasa paid the ultimate price, dying in exile in 1965, after he was forced to desert his home country by the apartheid regime.
“Fifty-six years later, there are still journalists on our continent who are being jailed, harassed, and even killed for reporting on the atrocities, the human rights abuses, and corruption in their countries.
“We reiterate the call by regional body, the Southern African Editors Forum for SADC governments to abolish all draconian laws and align themselves with international standards.
“This will enable journalists to operate in a free environment without fear of their lives when doing their jobs.
“SANEF will Go ahead with the awards ceremony, with Chin’ono delivering his speech virtually. To view the awards celebrating courageous journalism, please go here 23rd Nat Nakasa Awards – YouTube or on the SANEF Facebook page.
“Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists, and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media.
“We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics, and diversity in the South African media.
“We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union,” the forum said in a statement.