THE dispute involving Guardian correspondent Andrew Meldrum and the Immigration department is due to resume today when he meets chief Immigration officer Elasto Mugwadi.
The department claims that in his letter of support for Meldrum’s residence permit application, then Information minister Chen Chimutengwende indicated Meldrum would be covering economic and tourism issues. The department wanted to know why he is now writing political reports.
Meldrum has replied in a letter approved by his lawyers that he has been writing economics-related stories. He pointed to his work for The Economist and the Economist Intelligence Unit. That did not preclude him, he argued, from writing other stories including political stories.
In any case, he pointed out, his residence permit imposes no restrictions as to what he may write and simply states that he is expected to work as a journalist.
“I am confident that I have broken no law,” Meldrum told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday.
“There are no restrictions on my residence permit whatsoever. A journalist covers all news, be it political, economic or social – anything deemed newsworthy.”
Meldrum on Tuesday met a Senior Immigration Officer, Mr Siziba, who greeted him with: “Meldrum, you are continuing to write bad stories about Zimbabwe.”
Siziba led the group of immigration officers and what are suspected to be CIO officers that parked outside Meldrum’s Highlands home last Wednesday evening claiming they wanted to interview him. They refused to provide their IDs to either Meldrum’s wife or his lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa.
In discussions between Mugwadi and Mtetwa this week it transpired that the Immigration department had been led to believe Meldrum’s High Court order last year upholding his right of abode in Zimbabwe had expired and that since he had not appealed to the Supreme Court for further relief, it was no longer valid.
Mtetwa pointed out that the onus was on the department to appeal to the Supreme Court if it was unhappy with the High Court order that was still valid.
Meldrum remains confident that the Immigration department doesn’t have a case.
“These are not the actions of a government that is confident of its legitimacy,” Meldrum said.
“These are the actions of a government that is afraid of freedom of the press, and of independent and critical journalism. If this action against me is intended to intimidate other Zimbabwean journalists it will surely fail.”
Yesterday, media freedom organisation Credo said the Zimbabwe authorities cannot exercise sovereignty outside the boundaries of international law.
“The new accusation that conditions of Meldrum’s permit only allow him to report on economics and tourism is false,” Credo’s coordinator Rotimi Sankore said.
“Even if that were true, no competent journalist can report on the Zimbabwean economy and tourism industry without reflecting the political climate that has led to their collapse.” – Staff Writer.