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Zimbabwe22 May 2003

Interview of Meldrum by Reporters Without Borders
in London on 21 May 2003

Guardian journalist Andrew Meldrum, who was deported from Zimbabwe last Friday, said it was evident that he had been chosen as a symbol by the authorities.

"They wanted to shut me up and to send an intimidating message to both the foreign and domestic press" he said.

Meldrum insists that his departure should be termed an abduction and not a deportation since it was done illegally when he was bundled to the airport and onto a flight to London, despite High Court orders of a stay of execution.

"They made my abduction as frightening as possible without actually harming me, because as a US citizen I had some prominence".

"I had suffered a campaign of vilification in the press in Zimbabwe. I was named in articles ten times last year, including with headlines such as Meldrum is a cheat."

Ministers have made frequent attacks on him, even labelling him a terrorist, particularly Information Minister Jonathon Moyo, whom Meldrum described as particularly vindictive.

Meldrum fears that things will worsen after his departure. "Now they will be able to control things more easily, he believes."

"I can foresee more legal actions against the press there and it’s a struggle for newspapers to find the legal fees. There is a media defence fund but it is very draining (of funds)."

"A lot of people have been arrested and charged under the new press law but so far they have not managed to prove any cases", he said. But he added, "They have weeded out a lot of high court judges."

"There have been 63 charges made against Zimbabwean journalists and editors in the last year", he said. "Several people have had more than one charge placed against them."

He also fears that a lot more people will be refused licenses to practise journalism under the press law.

Meldrum, who reported out of Zimbabwe for 23 years, stressed that he always reported things as they were without holding anything back. "If I was to censure myself, it would defeat the whole purpose of my being there," he said.

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in the annual report
Zimbabwe - Annual Report 2008
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