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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 May, 2003, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Deported journalist accuses Zimbabwe
Andrew Meldrum
Andrew Meldrum had worked in Zimbabwe for 22 years
A newspaper correspondent deported by Zimbabwe has accused its "increasingly desperate" government of effectively abducting him.

Andrew Meldrum, a US citizen who writes for the British newspaper The Guardian, said he was forced to leave the country after being "held captive for 10 hours".

The 51-year-old said that he, and those journalists remaining in Zimbabwe, would continue to report on the issues facing the crisis-ridden country.

Mr Meldrum, who had worked in Zimbabwe for 22 years, was flown out on Friday night, despite a High Court judge's order staying the deportation.

'Quite frightening'

Describing his deportation, Mr Meldrum said: "When they bundled me into the car, they put a jacket over my head so I did not know where they were taking me.

It's a classic case of shooting the messenger, or in this case, deporting the messenger
Andrew Meldrum
"It was quite frightening but I did not want them to know I was frightened.

"I was taken to a small room in the basement of the airport and held there."

Mr Meldrum said he was not allowed to get in touch with his wife, lawyer, or anybody else that could help.

He added: "I was prevented from getting the court order my lawyer had won in court yesterday and they just bundled me onto the plane.

"My passport was returned to me this morning."

'Committed band'

Arriving at London's Gatwick Airport, he said the Zimbabwe government had aimed to intimidate other journalists working in Zimbabwe.

Petty and vindictive actions like this simply expose the Zimbabwean regime for what it is
Jack Straw

Mr Meldrum said: "It's a classic case of shooting the messenger, or in this case, deporting the messenger."

Few foreign reporters remain in Zimbabwe, but Mr Meldrum said a "committed band" of journalists were still able to report on the country's situation.

Mr Meldrum said his wife, Dolores, who is still in Zimbabwe, would be fine with the help of friends as she prepared to leave.

'Undesirable'

Zimbabwean officials accused Mr Meldrum of unwarranted criticism of the regime of President Robert Mugabe.

He had been awaiting the result of his appeal against an earlier deportation order issued last July.

The new order was signed by Zimbabwe's home affairs minister Kembo Mahadi and said it was not in the public interest to reveal why Mr Meldrum was deemed "an undesirable inhabitant".

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Friday: "I am very concerned about this case.

"Petty and vindictive actions like this simply expose the Zimbabwean regime for what it is."

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said: "The Zimbabwean authorities have been persecuting Andrew for the last 12 months and their clear determination to deport him can only be interpreted as a concerted effort to stifle any free press within the country."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Journalist Andrew Meldrum
"Mugabe can't endure pressure from fellow African countries"



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