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Journalist under threat

Blessing Zulu

GUARDIAN correspondent Andrew Meldrum has left his Harare home fearing for his safety after a visit by men claiming to be immigration officers.

NT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Meldrum’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said four men who said they were immigration officers arrived at her client’s house on Wednesday night at around 7.15 pm.

“They told his wife they wanted to speak to him,” said Mtetwa.

“They refused to present any identification. They also refused to say what they wanted to speak to him about, only saying there was a problem. They arrived in four vehicles, including a large van with blacked out windows,” Mtetwa said.

The four also refused to identify themselves to Mtetwa.

She said the visit created suspicion as to their identity and motives.

“The refusal of the authorities to say what they are up to, their visit to his home at night, and the number of vehicles that they used creates the suspicion that foul play may have been their motive,” said Mtetwa.

She said the environment in the country was disturbing.

“With the well-documented erosion of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, many individuals have been arrested, detained incommunicado and only released by the courts without any charges preferred against them,” Mtetwa said.

“Mr Meldrum remains willing to answer questions to bona fide officials providing they follow proper legal procedure which requires that they state their inquiry up front. We are currently looking into all legal remedies available to Meldrum,” said Mtetwa.

Mtetwa visited immigration officials yesterday to establish the reason for their visit to Meldrum’s home at night.

They again refused to disclose why they wanted to speak to him, she said.

There was an attempt last year to deport Meldrum after he won his case on charges under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

But the High Court upheld his right as a permanent resident to remain in the country. He had been charged with publishing a story that had appeared in the Daily News about the alleged decapitation of a Magunje woman. It later turned out that the story was false. The court found that he had taken sufficient steps to verify it.

Mtetwa said the High Court order remains va-lid. As a permanent resi-dent, Meldrum has full legal rights to reside in Zimbabwe and to work here, she said. The state indicated it would appeal to the Supreme Court but appears not to have done so.

Information permanent secretary George Charamba singled out Meldrum in an article in the Sunday Mail last weekend accusing him of carrying “a number of causes on his small back”.

“Meldrum co-ordina-tes opposition events here, often diarising and arranging media coverage for such events, interviews and media contacts for the MDC hierarchy,” Charamba charged.

“He is critical to lifting falsehoods into mainstream European and American media.”

BBC reporter Joseph Winter had his home ransacked by state agents who terrified his family before being deported in 2000.

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