The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says Zimbabwean authorities should not contest journalist Jeffrey Moyo’s appeal of a recent ruling denying him bail, and should drop the criminal case against him.
In a statement, CPJ quoted Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, as saying Zimbabwean authorities should recognize that the New York Times freelancer “has not threatened the country’s national security, and should not contest his appeal for bail.”
Quintal also said, “It is only because of Zimbabwean authorities’ paranoia about international media coverage that Moyo is facing up to a decade in jail on spurious charges.”
The state claims that Moyo falsely told immigration officials at Bulawayo’s Joshua Nkomo International Airport on May 5 that two New York Times journalists, Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva, possessed accreditations issued by the Zimbabwe Media Commission, the country’s statutory media regulator.
State documents seen by CPJ indicate that Moyo allegedly procured fake accreditations for the journalists, who then received business visas on arrival at the airport on May 5 to work in the country for seven days.
According to CPJ, on May 8, police located Goldbaum and Silva in their Harare hotel and expelled them to South Africa after “information was received that they were in Zimbabwe with fake accreditation."
Police have also arrested Thabang Manhika, a registrar at the Zimbabwe Media Commission, for allegedly violating Section 36 of the Immigration Act.
Moyo was this week denied bail by magistrate Rachel Mukanga, who remanded him in custody saying Moyo was a flight risk.
Mukanga agreed with prosecutors that the journalist was a “threat to national security” and that the country’s “sovereignty was undermined because foreign journalists interviewed Zimbabweans.”
CPJ received an emailed statement from New York Times spokesperson, Danielle Rhoades Ha, who noted that the paper was deeply disappointed by the magistrate’s decision and urged the High Court to grant Moyo bail.
If convicted, Moyo could face up to 10 years in jail.
Moyo’s attorneys are planning to seek bail at the High Court.