A freelance reporter for The New York Times newspaper, Jeffrey Moyo, is being tried in Zimbabwe on charges of violating immigration laws after he assisted two of his colleagues to obtain work permits in May 2021.
Moyo, a Zimbabwean, has denied the charge against him, but he faces up to 10 years in prison if the court in Bulawayo city finds him guilty.
Even the government acknowledged at one point that the charges against Moyo were practically baseless, the New York Times reported.
Zimbabwe’s authorities claim two of the paper’s journalists, Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva, were given visas by bogus documents, and they were deported shortly after their discovery.
Press freedom groups say the trial is a further attempt to intimidate the media: “Jeffrey Moyo’s trial started today. The journalist was arrested in May, accused of giving bogus credentials for other reporters. These charges must be dropped entirely.”
The case against Moyo, 37, has drawn attention domestically and internationally as an example of heightened harassment of the press in Zimbabwe, a 14 million-population landlocked country in southern Africa.
Initially arrested on May 26, he spent three weeks in jail in Bulawayo before being granted bail. He is accused of violating the Immigration Act, which carries a maximum jail sentence of ten years, a fine, or both.
Moyo allegedly provided fake accreditation documents to Goldbaum and Silva, who flew from South Africa to Bulawayo on May 5 to report on the issue. Both were expelled from the country four days later.
Thabang Manhika, an official of the Zimbabwe Media Commission, is also accused by prosecutors of providing the documents to Moyo, who in turn, handed them to his colleagues upon their arrival.
Moyo and Manhika were meant to be tried together, but Judge Mark Nzira approved the request of Moyo’s lawyer to separate the cases on Tuesday, so his trial was rescheduled for Wednesday.
So far, no evidence has been presented to support the prosecution’s claim that the accreditation documents are fake.
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