On 14 June 2022, a freelance reporter for The New York Times, Jeffrey Moyo, was convicted of breaching Zimbabwe’s immigration laws. The New York Times reports that the court issued Moyo a fine of 200,000 Zimbabwe dollars (about USD615) and a two-year suspended prison term, which can be imposed if he is convicted of a similar offense in the next five years.
Authorities arrested Moyo in Harare in May 2021, alongside Zimbabwe Media Commission registrar Thabang Manhika, and accused them of contravening the Immigration Act by allegedly producing fake media accreditation cards for two foreign New York Times journalists, Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva. Goldbaum and Silva had used the press cards to obtain visas at Bulawayo airport on 5 May 2021. Three days later, an immigration officer cancelled those visas, claiming the accreditation was fraudulent, and the pair were deported.
Such accreditation processes have been the subject of criticism in Zimbabwe for their impact on media freedom. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has described the USD150 accreditation fees for local journalists working for international media houses as “exorbitant and beyond the reach of many,” adding that “these fees are prohibitory in nature and may result in local journalists working for foreign media houses not being able to be accredited at all.”
During the trial, Moyo’s lawyers argued that the charges were baseless, and even one lawyer for the government had allegedly acknowledged that the case was dubious. Even so, the magistrate repeatedly admonished Moyo for actions that “could have been done to let saboteurs into the country.”
Angela Quintal, Africa coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, described the conviction as a “monumental travesty of justice” that shows “how far press freedom has deteriorated in Zimbabwe.”
A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, said in a statement that the organisation would work with Moyo’s attorneys to appeal the decision immediately. He said that The Times believes the case against Moyo was brought to interfere with their reporting, and is evidence of a wider assault on media freedom under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rule.
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