The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) and the local chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) have urged the courts to give Jeffery Moyo, an international freelance reporter, a fair trial following his arrest last Wednesday.
Moyo (37) allegedly violated section 36 of the Immigration Act by reportedly helping two New York Times reporters—Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva— obtain fake accreditation cards that the duo used to enter Zimbabwe from South Africa.
But Moyo’s lawyer, Douglas Coltart, says the charge is politically motivated and “spurious” and has complained that Moyo is being kept under hostile conditions.
The Zimbabwean freelancer—who strings for several international publications, the NY Times included—has been in police, then remand custody, for a week.
Moyo is jointly charged with Thabang Farai Manhika, an employee of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), which accredits journalists.
When the two appeared at the Bulawayo magistrate’s court on Monday (31 May 2021), magistrate Rachel Mukanga denied them bail and remanded the in custody to 10 June. She said their case was serious and attracted a prison term of 10 years if found guilty.
MISA Zimbabwe urged a fair trial.
“We are monitoring the case of journalist Jeffrey Moyo, arrested in Harare last week before being transferred to Bulawayo. Since the matter is now at the courts, we are hoping that there will be a fair trial,” Thabani Moyo, the MISA Zimbabwe director, told Grazers News.
In a statement dated 31 May 2021, the ZUJ president, Michael Chideme, said the union was concerned with Moyo’s arrest.
“The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists is keenly following the arrest, detention, and subsequent court appearance of journalist Jeffrey Moyo for allegedly violating immigration laws to facilitate a reporting mission by two foreign colleagues,” he said.
Moyo, a member of the union, ought to be given solidarity, said Chideme.
“ZUJ is monitoring the situation very closely and will provide updates whenever possible. Suffice to say an injury to one is an injury to all,” said the ZUJ president.
Bulawayo prosecutor, Thompson Hove, told the court that Moyo assisted two journalists from NY Times to illegally enter Zimbabwe without the knowledge of the Information ministry.
A police statement claimed the ZMC data base did not have records of Goldbaum and Silva having applied for and been granted accreditation, but Coltart dismissed that as an internal administrative problem on which the state could not charge Moyo.
New York Times spokesperson, Nicole Taylor, in a statement after the arrest of Moyo, said they were concerned by the development because “Jeffrey is a widely respected journalist with many years of reporting experience in Zimbabwe and his detainment raises troubling questions about the state of press freedom in Zimbabwe.”
Coltart earlier told Grazers News that his client was innocent. He complained that Moyo had been over-detained as he was arrested and spent more than 48 hours in police custody, the maximum ordinarily allowed by the law.
The police can only extend the period of incarceration after procedurally obtaining a warrant for further detention (WFD).