Burton Benjamin Award
Beatrice Mtetwa is a prominent media and human rights lawyer and a 2005 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award. Throughout the decade, Mtetwa has defended numerous journalists against spurious charges brought by President Robert Mugabe’s government. She represented many of the journalists arrested during a massive crackdown on the press in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. Among her court victories was the successful defense of New York Times reporter Barry Bearak and British freelance journalist Steven Bevan, both of whom were arrested under an obsolete press accreditation law.
Mtetwa has defended journalists in a number of high-profile cases throughout her career. Her clients have included Mercedes Sayagues of South Africa’s Mail and Guardian, Andrew Meldrum of The Guardian of London, Angus Shaw of The Associated Press, Jan Raath of The Times of London, and Brian Latham of Bloomberg. Mtetwa also worked on behalf of the Daily News, Zimbabwe’s sole independent daily before it was shuttered in September 2003.
Mtetwa has faced repeated reprisals. In May 2007, police beat Mtetwa and three colleagues with rubber clubs. “I am all right but angry,” she told one radio interviewer before resuming work. In 2003, she endured similar abuse after she was arrested on specious allegations of drunken driving. Mtetwa was taken to a police station, where she was held for three hours, beaten and choked before being released without charge. Here are some background links:
In Zimbabwe Jail: A Reporter’s Ordeal
Barry Bearak, a journalist for The New York Times, recounts his terrifying ordeal in a Zimbabwe prison. Charged with the crime of “committing journalism,” Bearak writes how Beatrice Mtetwa secured his release.