New York Times freelancer pleads not guilty to 'smuggling' journalists into Zimbabwe

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A freelance journalist has pleaded not guilty for smuggling two other journalist into Zimbabwe.
A freelance journalist has pleaded not guilty for smuggling two other journalist into Zimbabwe.
Blanchi Costela, Getty Images
  • A New York Times freelancer in Zimbabwe, Jeffrey Moyo, has pleaded not guilty.
  • His co-accused will go on trial separately.
  • CPJ says prosecutors are using Moyo as an example to censor and intimidate the press in Zimbabwe.

New York Times freelance journalist Jeffrey Moyo, 37, entered a not guilty plea in a case where he's accused of smuggling two other New York Times journalists into the country last year.

Moyo's trial gets underway in the Bulawayo Magistrate's Court on Wednesday and he's being represented by human rights lawyers Douglas Coltart and Beatrice Mtetwa.

On Tuesday, his lawyers told the magistrate that they were ready for trial, and that further delays would be a travesty to justice.

READ | Mugabe-era Zimbabweans who fled to Botswana lose political refugee status after court ruling

"Today our client entered a not guilty plea and the trial begins tomorrow. We are ready and take note of the State's case," said Coltart in a telephone interview.

On 26 May last year, Moyo was arrested with his co-accused, Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) official Thabang Manhika, for allegedly processing fake accreditations for two New York Times reporters - Christina Goldbaum and João Silva - who flew into Bulawayo from Johannesburg. 

Manhika on Tuesday raised concerns about the charges he was facing, a situation that could have resulted in a delay in the trial.

However, Moyo's lawyers applied for separation, which was granted. 

Manhika will go to court separately on 24 January to face charges of providing fake accreditation. 

READ | With R2500, we can smuggle you into SA - Zimbabwe traffickers

Their case has drawn international attention, with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) saying it was "astounding" that Moyo was set to go on trial.

"It is astounding that Zimbabwean prosecutors are pushing ahead with tomorrow's trial against journalist Jeffrey Moyo after the state's about-face last June, when it withdrew its opposition to his bail request and acknowledged that its case was on 'shaky ground'.

"CPJ again urges prosecutors to finally withdraw the charges against Moyo. Failing to do so would simply reinforce perceptions that the prosecutors are acting in bad faith and are using Moyo as an example to censor and intimidate the press in Zimbabwe," said CPJ's Africa Programme Coordinator Angela Quintal.

Zimbabwe was ranked at 130 out of 180 countries on the media freedom index in 2021, compared to its ranking at 126 in 2020 by the Reporters Without Borders.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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