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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Zimbabwe reporter wins reprieve
Andrew Meldrum, with his wife, Dolores
Andrew Meldrum: Told to leave after 22 years in Harare
The High Court in Zimbabwe has suspended the deportation of an American journalist until the Supreme Court hears his case.

I cannot allow [Meldrum] to remain in the country... because such an extension would be detrimental to the security of the state

John Nkomo
Home Affairs Minister
The judge said Andrew Meldrum - who works for a British newspaper The Guardian - had the right to argue that his rights were being violated in front of the country's highest court.

No date has been set for the Supreme Court hearing, but Mr Meldrum, who is a long-time resident of Zimbabwe, said he was "delighted" with the High Court's decision.

Mr Meldrum, 50, had been told on Monday that he had 24 hours to leave the country, minutes after he had been cleared of breaking strict new media laws.

State security

The state lawyer had argued that Mr Meldrum should leave the country because he was a "security risk".

His appeal was postponed from Tuesday when state prosecutors requested more time to prepare the case.

Mr Meldrum has also asked Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo to reconsider the deportation.

But Mr Nkomo said an extension would be "detrimental to the security of the state".

In a similar case last year, a court allowed BBC correspondent Joseph Winter to remain in Zimbabwe in spite of a deportation order.

He later left after secret policemen broke into his house during the middle of the night.

Media laws

Mr Meldrum was informed of the decision to deport him, four minutes after being found not guilty of "publishing falsehoods".

President Robert Mugabe
Media law signed by President Mugabe requires:

  • Journalists must apply for an annual licence
  • The license costs $13,050
  • Only Zimbabwean nationals can apply
  • Foreign journalists may report with special permission
  • The law is being challenged in court

  • He was the first of a dozen journalists charged with offences relating to tough new media laws, passed by President Robert Mugabe days after his controversial March re-election.

    In an editorial on Wednesday entitled "Scorecard: Freedom of the Press 1, Its Enemies 0", the privately-owned Daily News said the acquittal of Mr Meldrum was a body blow against the government's drive to muzzle the private press.

    The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, has deplored the decision to deport Mr Meldrum.

    "The deportation order was signed on 3 July, suggesting there was never any intention of a just result," he said.

    Mr Meldrum was charged with publishing a story which later turned out to be untrue, now seen by the state as a crime punishable by up to two years in prison.

    In acquitting Mr Meldrum, magistrate Godfrey Macheyo accepted that he had tried to verify the story.

    "He acted like any other reasonable journalist in these circumstances," the magistrate said.

    Key stories





    See also:

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    24 Feb 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
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