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Zimbabwe19 May 2003

Journalist ordered to be deported


Meldrum was deported to Britain on 16 May when immigration officials forced him onto a late-night Air Zimbabwe flight to London. His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, had obtained a High Court order forbidding his immediate expulsion, but the officials brushed it aside and took him to the plane.


Reporters Without Borders condemned as "disgraceful" today’s attempt by the Zimbabwean government to expel American journalist Andrew Meldrum, correspondent for the British daily The Guardian.

"For the past two years, the Zimbabwean government has tried to get rid of all foreign journalists working in the country," said the organisation’s secretary-general Robert Ménard. "The bid to deport Meldrum is the latest disgraceful and unacceptable episode."

Meldrum, a permanent resident of the country who has been The Guardian’s correspondent there for the past 22 years, went to the immigration office in Harare this morning in response to a summons. He was told he was being deported and a police car took him to the airport to be put on a plane. His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said shortly afterwards she had obtained a court order blocking the deportation.

"Zimbabwe is one of the most backward countries in Africa as far as press freedom is concerned and certainly the harshest towards the independent media," Ménard said. "President Robert Mugabe and his information minister, Jonathan Moyo, do not tolerate criticism of them in the foreign press."

Mugabe is on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of 42 predators of press freedom.

Immigration officials went to Meldrum’s house in Harare at night on 7 May but he was not at home. They refused to say what they wanted with him. His lawyer said that as soon as legal procedures were respected, he would be at the disposition of the legal authorities. On 13 May, an immigration official accused him of breaking the rules of his residency by writing about the political situation.

Meldrum has been persistently harassed. He was arrested on 30 April with two journalists from the independent newspaper The Daily News. They were accused of publishing "falsehoods" and jailed for two days, before being freed provisionally. The High Court acquitted Meldrum on 15 July.

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