The trial of Daily News editor Geoffrey Nyarota and one of his reporters, Lloyd Mudiwa, for "publishing falsehood" in violation of the country’s press law (the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) opened on 22 July. The case is the same as the one against US journalist Andrew Meldrum, local correspondent of the British daily The Guardian.
The journalists asked for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of the press law on grounds that it violates the freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution. Judge Sandra Nhau granted permission for this on 24 July. The trial will resume as soon as the Supreme Court has ruled on the matter
High Court judge Anele Matika suspended the deportation order against Meldrum and sent his appeal on to the Constitutional Court, saying he had a constitutional right to live and work in Zimbabwe that the interior minister could not revoke in what he said were "unclear circumstances".
Meldrum will argue to the Constitutional Court that his rights were violated and that the deportation order was illegal and unfounded because he was no threat to the security of the government or the country, despite what the minister implied. He said the expulsion order was "part of a plot by the government to stifle press freedom in Zimbabwe" .
The Constitutional Court should hear his appeal in the next few months. In a similar case last year, the Court allowed a BBC correspondent, Joseph Winter, to stay in the country despite a deportation order. However, Winter later left Zimbabwe after the secret police broke into his house in the middle of the night.
Meldrum today denounced the government’s order to deport him as "unjust and illegal." "I am challenging the legality and fairness of the order to throw me out of the country soon after I had won a landmark case against the government," he said.
Meldrum’s lawyer has lodged an urgent appeal with the High Court against the expulsion order, which information minister Jonathan Moyo said was issued because the journalist had broken the terms of his permanent residence permit, though he did not say how.
High Court judge Anele Matika today postponed the initial 24-hour deportation deadline by a day, until 1700h (1500 GMT) tomorrow (17 July). Meldrum sought a meeting with home affairs minister John Nkomo but the minister said he had laryngitis and could not see him.
President Robert Mugabe’s government has already deported two foreign journalists and refused to renew the work permits of many others. The immigration laws give the government full powers to decide who shall be granted permanent residency. Mugabe has said the deportation order is now a matter for
Reporters Without Borders today denounced the Zimbabwean government’s decision to deport Andrew Meldrum, correspondent of the British daily The Guardian, as "an act of vengeance" and called on information minister Jonathan Moyo to cancel the expulsion order at once.
Harare Judge Godfrey Macheyo earlier today cleared Meldrum of "publishing falsehoods" and "abuse of journalistic privilege." But a few minutes after the court verdict, immigration officers served him with an order to leave the country within 24 hours.
"The verdict in this first trial of a journalist under the new press law is a victory for press freedom," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general, Robert Ménard in a letter to Moyo. "but the deportation order is an act of vengeance by a government bent on targeting foreign journalists."
Meldrum, an American citizen and officially permanent resident of Zimbabwe who has lived there for 21 years, said the deportation documents were dated 3 and 5 July, showing that President Robert Mugabe’s government had taken the decision before knowing the court’s verdict. He said this was "consistent with a government that is trying to stop me reporting what is going on here."
Reporters Without Borders notes that nine other journalists from independent media in Zimbabwe are awaiting trial on similar charges under the new press law (the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act).