HARARE – New York Times Zimbabwean correspondent, Jeffrey Moyo has been fined $200 000 after he was found guilty of violating sections of the Immigration Act after he manufactured fake press cards for two journalists from the same publication to operate in the country sometime last year.
Bulawayo magistrate Mr Mark Nzira had also sentenced Moyo to two years in prison but wholly suspended the jail term on condition that he does not commit a similar offence within the next five years.
The government’s case against Mr. Moyo appeared to be weak from the start — even according to the government’s own legal team.
Mr. Moyo was accused of illegally procuring false accreditation documents for two Times journalists, Christina Goldbaum and João Silva, who flew to the southern city of Bulawayo on May 5 last year. They were deported four days later, and weeks later the police arrested Mr. Moyo, accusing him of breaching Zimbabwe’s immigration laws in a case that prosecutors initially termed a “national security issue.”
Mr. Moyo had obtained the accreditation for the two Times journalists in the normal manner, providing the required paperwork and receipts, he said. The documentation he obtained had come “from the rightful office which deals with that particular process,” the filing said.
The Visas were canceled three days later after an immigration officer unearthed the scam that saw the two foreign journalists deported.
Moyo was convicted after a full trial.
Mr. Moyo’s lawyers, who have always argued that the charges against him are spurious.
“We are of the view that the state has failed to make out even a prima facie case against Mr. Moyo at the close of its case,” said Douglas Coltart, one of his lawyers.
Mr. Moyo, 37, who also works for other international news outlets, was detained last May and held for three weeks in a lice-infested cell in one of Zimbabwe’s oldest prisons, in Bulawayo, before being released on bail.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, said it expected that his ordeal would soon be over.
Press freedom in Zimbabwe has been under assault under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to groups that monitor free speech. Independent journalists have been detained and harassed, and they have struggled to obtain official accreditation, said Ms. Quintal of the Committee to Project Journalists.