Zimbabwe Court Refusal to Free NY Times Reporter Troubling

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed its disappointment after a court in Zimbabwe refused to acquit and discharged a New York Times freelancer, Jeffery Moyo, in a 2021 immigration case.

The CPJ described the charges against Moyo — who was arrested in the capital Harare, alongside Zimbabwe Media Commission registrar, Thabang Manhika, on May 26, 2021, for allegedly contravening Section 36 of the Immigration Act by producing fake media accreditation cards for two foreign New York Times journalists, Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva — as spurious.

Both Goldbaum and Silva were deported from the southern African country three days after their arrest while Manhika was acquitted in a separate trial on March 10, 2022.

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Reacting to the court’s Tuesday decision, Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in a statement said,  “We are disappointed that more than nine months after his arrest, and after 21 days in detention and countless hours in court, journalist Jeffrey Moyo was not acquitted of the spurious charges relating to his work with his colleagues at The New York Times.

“The decision to deny the defense’s application to dismiss the case is doubly troubling as Moyo’s co-accused was acquitted in a separate trial last week and simply reinforces perceptions that the case is being used to intimidate the independent press in Zimbabwe.”

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Following prosecutors’ closure of the state’s case against Moyo last month, the defense requested the case be dismissed, contending that the state knew it had no case since at least June 2021, when, in reply to Moyo’s bail application on appeal, the state said it was on “shaky ground,” according to the discharge application, which CPJ reviewed, and the journalist’s lawyer Doug Coltart, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo magistrate ruled that the prosecution had sufficient evidence against Moyo to put him on trial, Coltart told CPJ via messaging. Moyo faces at least 10 years in prison if convicted under the Immigration Act. The trial continues on April 28.

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