- US journalist Andrew Meldrum, who was deported from Zimbabwe last Friday, says the so-called deportation in practical terms was an abduction carried out by the Zimbabwean government. In an interview, he expressed fears the media situation in Zimbabwe would now grow even worse.
Andrew Meldrum, a US national, was the correspondent of the British daily 'The Guardian' in Zimbabwe, where he has lived for 23 years. On Friday, he was thrown out of Zimbabwe, although his accreditations were correct and a court order had banned his "deportation".
The Paris-based watchdog group for press freedom, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), interviewed Mr Meldrum after his arrival in London, where he said it was "evident" that he had been chosen as a symbol by the authorities. "They wanted to shut me up and to send an intimidating message to both the foreign and domestic press" he said.
Mr Meldrum insists that his departure should be termed an abduction and not a deportation since it was done illegally when he was bundled to the airport and onto a flight to London, despite High Court orders of a stay of execution.
- They made my abduction as frightening as possible without actually harming me, because as a US citizen I had some prominence, he holds. "I had suffered a campaign of vilification in the press in Zimbabwe. I was named in articles ten times last year, including with headlines such as Meldrum is a cheat."
Zimbabwean ministers have made frequent attacks on him, even labelling him a terrorist, particularly Information Minister Jonathon Moyo, whom Mr Meldrum described as particularly vindictive.
Mr Meldrum fears that things will worsen after his departure. "Now they will be able to control things more easily," he told RSF. "I can foresee more legal actions against the press there and it's a struggle for newspapers to find the legal fees. There is a media defence fund but it is very draining (of funds)."
- A lot of people have been arrested and charged under the new press law but so far they have not managed to prove any cases, he said. But he added, "They have weeded out a lot of high court judges."
- There have been 63 charges made against Zimbabwean journalists and editors in the last year, Mr Meldrum says. "Several people have had more than one charge placed against them." He also fears that a lot more people will be refused licenses to practise journalism under the press law.
Mr Meldrum, who reported out of Zimbabwe for 23 years, stressed that he had always reported things as they were without holding anything back. "If I was to censure myself, it would defeat the whole purpose of my being there," he said.
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