Zimbabwe Releases Local Reporter Working for The New York Times
JOHANNESBURG — A freelance reporter working for The New York Times was granted bail and released from a Zimbabwe jail on Wednesday, three weeks after the authorities arrested him on charges that he improperly helped two Times journalists make a reporting trip to the country.
The release of the reporter, Jeffrey Moyo, came after a lawyer for the government wrote in a court filing that the state did not have a strong case against Mr. Moyo and that it did not oppose an appeal by his lawyers to have him released on bail.
The court’s decision to grant bail amounts to a temporary reprieve for Mr. Moyo, who will have to pay a bail fee of 5,000 Zimbabwean dollars, about $14, and surrender his passport among other restrictions because the charges against him — violating immigration rules by committing fraud to facilitate the entry of the reporters — are still pending, according to Douglas Coltart, one of his lawyers.
The arrest of Mr. Moyo, 37, came amid other highly publicized cases of government attacks on journalists across Africa that have drawn widespread condemnation from news organizations and from press freedom advocates. In Ethiopia, journalists covering the war in the Tigray region have been arrested, threatened and had their press credentials revoked, including a freelance reporter for The Times. In February, the authorities in Mozambique expelled a British journalist covering a violent insurgency in the northern part of the country.
Mr. Moyo, who lives in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, with his wife and 8-year-old son, had helped to secure credentials for two Times journalists, Christina Goldbaum and João Silva, to enter Zimbabwe last month. The authorities expelled the visiting reporters from the country during their reporting trip, saying that their accreditation had not gone through the proper channels.
The authorities then arrested Mr. Moyo and Thabang Farai Manhika, an official of the Zimbabwe Media Commission, alleging that the press credentials were fake.
Last month, a judge denied a bail application for Mr. Moyo after prosecutors argued that he presented a national security threat, but the government’s most recent filing said that he had cooperated with the authorities, providing all the paperwork and receipts for the accreditation.
Mr. Moyo produced what he believed were genuine documents “from the rightful office which deals with that particular process,” the filing said.
Any potential security threat had been neutralized by the deportation of the visiting Times reporters, the state’s lawyer wrote.
“The finding that the release of the appellant will undermine public peace and security is with due respect misplaced,” the filing said, adding, “It was not shown how the appellant himself would cause instability and threat to national security.”
The filing suggested that blame for any potential improprieties fell on Mr. Manhika, the media commission official, who provided the accreditation cards. The case against Mr. Moyo “is on shaky ground as compared to that of his co-accused who originated the documents,” the state wrote.
The Committee to Protect Journalists applauded the move to release Mr. Moyo, but called on the authorities to go further.
“We said from the very start that Jeffrey Moyo should never have been detained, let alone charged, and we repeat our call for Zimbabwean authorities to immediately drop the criminal charge and allow him to work freely,” Angela Quintal, the committee’s Africa program coordinator, said in a statement.
Ms. Quintal added that the Zimbabwean authorities needed “to help facilitate and not hinder the accreditation of foreign media who wish to report in the country.”
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