The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is outraged by your government's continuing harassment of Andrew Meldrum, Zimbabwe correspondent for the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper. Immigration officials ordered him today to leave the country.
Meldrum, a U.S. citizen who has covered Zimbabwe for The Guardian for 22 years, went to the Department of Immigration today at 10:00 a.m. for a scheduled meeting with officials, where he was informed he had to leave the country. The deportation order, signed by Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mahadi, called Meldrum "an undesirable inhabitant" of Zimbabwe but said it was not in the public interest to disclose why, The Associated Press reported.
Immediately after the meeting, while he was speaking to journalists outside the immigration offices, Meldrum was manhandled by police and pushed into an unmarked car that drove him directly to the Harare Airport, local sources told CPJ.
Beatrice Mtetwa, Meldrum's lawyer, obtained a high court stay against the journalist's deportation, which she later presented to officials at the airport. The court order stipulated that Meldrum was to be allowed to attend a hearing on his deportation this afternoon. However, officials have not yet produced Meldrum. Though the state attorney has informed the court that the journalist is still at the airport and has not yet been deported, no one has been in contact with Meldrum since he was taken this morning.
Meldrum, along with Daily News journalists Geoff Nyarota and Lloyd Mudiwa, was charged with "publishing false information" under Section 80 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) in April 2002. Though acquitted of the charge on July 15, 2002, Meldrum was ordered to leave the country within 24 hours. He successfully challenged the deportation order, which was overturned.
Meldrum recently went into hiding after a group of immigration officers went to his house on the evening of May 7, demanding to question the journalist. On May 13, Meldrum attended a meeting at the Department of Immigration during which his passport and residence permit were confiscated. Officials told him that his permit only allowed him to report on economics and tourism. Meldrum had recently filed stories about the deteriorating political and economic climate in Zimbabwe and police brutality. But Meldrum told CPJ that his residence permit does not include any conditions on his reporting.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to defending the rights of our colleagues worldwide, we condemn the harassment of Andrew Meldrum. The order for his deportation, as well as the extraordinary conditions of his arrest, indicate that this is a blatant attempt to silence the reporting of a journalist who has criticized Your Excellency's regime.
We remain deeply concerned about Meldrum's well-being. We call on you to do everything in your power to see that Meldrum is immediately released, and that the deportation order against him is dropped. We also urge you to stop the harassment of journalists in reprisal for their work and to see that they are allowed to practice their profession freely.
Thank you for your attention in this matter. We await your reply.