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Zimbabwe Court Delays Order to Deport US Journalist - 2002-07-17

A court in Zimbabwe has granted a temporary delay in the deportation order against American journalist Andrew Meldrum. The correspondent for the British Guardian newspaper has been a permanent resident of Zimbabwe for seven years.

The judge agreed with Mr. Meldrum's legal team that he should not lose his permanent residence status or be deported until his appeal can be heard in Zimbabwe's Supreme Court.

Mr. Meldrum was acquitted earlier this week of publishing a false news report in The Guardian, a violation of Zimbabwe's tough new media laws. The trial judge said he had made a mistake, but had not intended to publish a false report.

But minutes after that acquittal, he was served with notice that his permanent residence status had been revoked and he was ordered to leave Zimbabwe

In court, the government said that for security reasons it could not disclose why Mr. Meldrum should be stripped of his permanent residence status and be deported. It did say he had written false reports for The Guardian, which had tarnished Zimbabwe's image.

The journalist's lawyers argued that Mr. Meldrum's constitutional rights, as guaranteed in Zimbabwe's bill of rights, had been infringed. And they said he should not be deported until the case was heard by the appropriate court.

Mr. Meldrum was due to be deported an hour after his case was concluded in court. After the judge's ruling, there was celebration among human rights activists and the local and foreign journalists who attended the hearing.

Mr. Meldrum has worked in Zimbabwe for 22 years and considers it his home.