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American journalist working for British newspaper deported

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American journalist working for British newspaper deported

  • Police put the Andrew Meldrum on a flight bound for London despite a High Court order barring his deportation.

May 21, 2003 — Andrew Meldrum, a U.S. citizen working as a reporter for the British Guardian and Observer newspapers, was deported May 16 from Zimbabwe, his home for almost 23 years.

According to a report in the Observer, Meldrum arrived in London May 17 after being seized by police and bundled onto an Air Zimbabwe flight bound for London.

Meldrum, 51, was one of the first journalists tried on charges of “abuse of journalistic privileges by publishing falsehoods,” and was found not guilty of the crime on July 10, 2002.

Meldrum was arrested and jailed for publishing an account of an alleged beheading of a northwestern Zimbabwe woman by gangs working for the country’s ruling party, led by President Robert Mugabe.

Despite his acquittal, Meldrum was ordered to be expelled from the country. According to news reports in July 2002, Muldrum said that deportation constituted an alternative means of prior restraint for Zimbabwe’s government.

“The Mugabe government does not want to see me, or any other journalist . . . holding the government accountable for the good of all the people of this country,” Meldrum told the BBC in 2002.

After he arrived in London Saturday, Meldrum charged Zimbabwe’s government with “abducting” him to frighten other journalists from reporting on the worsening human rights situation, according to the Observer.

“To say I was deported is incorrect because it suggests I was ejected through some legal process,” Meldrum wrote in an article for the Observer. “I was abducted, and it was entirely illegal – even under President Robert Mugabe’s repressive laws.”

Meldrum had been accused by the Zimbabwe government of driving a hate campaign against Mugabe as the country sinks deeper into an economic and humanitarian crisis, according to the Observer.

“The abduction was designed to threaten and frighten,” Meldrum wrote. “And not just me but all my colleagues in the press who write for foreign and local papers. The Mugabe government thinks that by removing me from the country in that frightening fashion it can intimidate the rest of the press. It will not silence me nor, I am certain, will it succeed in bullying Zimbabwe’s courageous and committed journalists, especially those working for the foreign press and the privately owned domestic press.”

Meldrum was deported despite an order by a High Court Justice Charles Hungwe barring his deportation.

According to a May 21 report by International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearinghouse of Toronto, Beatrice Mtetwa, Meldrum’s attorney, said she will petition the high court to compel the government to return her client to Zimbabwe. She argued that immigration officials were in contempt for ignoring Meldrum’s right to appeal a July 2002 deportation.

JL

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