Independent journalist harassed

New York, May 8, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned for the safety of Andrew Meldrum, Zimbabwe correspondent for the U.K.-based newspaper The Guardian. A group of immigration officers visited the journalist’s home unannounced yesterday evening and demanded to speak with Meldrum, according to his wife.

At about 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, May 7, the men arrived at Meldrum’s house in four separate vehicles and said he was wanted for questioning. They would not identify themselves or reveal why the journalist needed to be questioned. Though his wife informed the officers that Meldrum was not at home, they refused to leave.

When Meldrum’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and questioned the men, they left, promising to return with reinforcements. Later that night, one of the same vehicles stopped in front of Meldrum’s house but did not enter the gate.

This morning, Mtetwa visited the Department of Immigration in the capital, Harare, to ask about the men’s visit. Officials confirmed that they want to speak to Meldrum but would not say why.

Mtetwa told CPJ that unidentified individuals followed her after she left work today.

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 and had his legal residency in Zimbabwe confirmed.

In a separate development, yesterday, Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional AIPPA Section 80.

Meldrum told CPJ he believes that the current harassment is an attempt to intimidate him into leaving the country. Several state-owned publications have run articles in the last year vilifying Meldrum and accusing him of being a British agent plotting against the government. One of these articles mentioned his wife as being involved in these plots, Meldrum said.

Meldrum has not returned home since the incident, and his wife has also left their house.