Reporter ordered to leave

New York, May 16, 2003—Andrew Meldrum, Zimbabwe correspondent for the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper, was ordered today by immigration officials in the capital, Harare, to leave the country.

Meldrum 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 Zimbabwe. Outside the immigration offices, Meldrum told reporters that he had been declared a “prohibited immigrant,” and that he was being deported.

“This is a vindictive action of a government afraid of a free press,” Meldrum told a Reuters journalist before police manhandled him and pushed him into an unmarked car.

Sources at The Guardian said that the car went directly to the Harare Airport and was followed by American diplomats.

Meanwhile, Meldrum’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, obtained a stay of Meldrum’s deportation order from a high court. The court ruled that Meldrum must be allowed to attend a hearing on the deportation this afternoon. Although Mtetwa served airport officials with the order, authorities have yet to produce Meldrum. No one has been in contact with the journalist since he was taken from the immigration offices this morning.

“The attempted deportation of Andrew Meldrum is an outrageous act of censorship,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We are concerned for his well-being and demand that Zimbabwean authorities drop this deportation order and cease harassing Meldrum immediately.”

In July 2002, Meldrum successfully challenged a deportation order that was issued after he was acquitted of “publishing false information.” On May 7, 2003, immigration officials came to his house and demanded to question the journalist, who was not home. At a meeting with immigration officials earlier this week, Meldrum had his passport and residence permit confiscated.