Pause in Zimbabwe Freelance reporter trial for The Times

The trial of a freelance reporter working for The New York Times in Zimbabwe, a case seen as a serious test of press freedom in the southern African country, was adjourned on Friday. after three days included. testimony of a key witness for the state who was unable to produce documents at the heart of the case.

Reporter, Jeffrey Moyo, 37 years old, was accused of forging accreditation documents for two Times journalists, Christina Goldbaum and João Silva, who flew from South Africa to the southwestern city of Bulawayo in May last year to cover the news.

They were ordered to be deported after a few days. Mr. Moyo has arrest and was charged a few weeks later, and could face up to ten years in prison, a fine, or both. He pleaded innocent.

The Bulawayo trial, which began on Wednesday and was originally scheduled to last four days, will continue on February 14. Moyo’s lawyers argue that the adjournment is due to the delay. about the procedure at the start of the trial, scheduling conflicts and longer – Expected witness testimony and cross-examination.

Defense attorneys argued that Mr. Moyo did nothing wrong and followed appropriate procedures in securing accreditation documents. They argued that Zimbabwean authorities had no evidence to prove the documents were forged – in fact suggesting that the government had an ulterior motive to deport Ms. Goldbaum and Mr. Silva.

Prosecutors admitted in court papers when Mr. Moyo was released on bailin June that their case was on “ground shaking.”

Other weaknesses in their case emerged early in the trial when prosecutors were unable to provide originals of documents they believe to be fabricated – only pictures. These include an image of a cell phone image that was taken on the cell phone of the state’s first witness, Bothwell Nkopilo, an immigration compliance official.

Questions also arose from the testimony and cross-examination of Mr Nkopilo, who said he visited Ms Goldbaum and Mr Silva on 8 May at their hotel after receiving what he described as a anonymous advice that they have engaged in suspicious activity. . Both were subsequently deported.

But Mr Nkopilo did not notify the police or the Zimbabwe Communications Commission, which is responsible for the accreditation documents. Immigration authorities did not seize the documents in question.

When asked if he could provide the phone containing the document images, Mr Nkopilo said he no longer owns it. Asked if he could provide a diary that immigration authorities are required to keep about the events of May 8, Mr Nkopilo said it was stolen from his car.

During a cross-examination by defense attorneys Moyo, Doug Coltart and Beatrice Mtetwa, Mr Nkopilo asserted that he had hearing problems and could not understand some questions, prompting judge Mark Nzira, a judge The senior judge hearing the case, reprimanded, who said, “I know you can hear.”

Nkopilo’s testimony appears to have helped highlight what the defense calls a major flaw in the state’s case – the assertion that the admission documents are fabricated.

“The theory put before the witness,” Mr. Coltart said, “the real reason they deported the two foreign nationals was not because they had fake ID cards but because they wanted to prevent them from doing their jobs.” mine. journalists and news. ”

Mr Coltart said if the Zimbabwean authorities really believed that the identity cards were forged, “they would certainly seize those cards as evidence of the offence”.

Mr Moyo was initially charged with a co-defendant, Thabang Manhika, an official with the Zimbabwe Communications Commission. Mr. Manhika provided the documents to Mr. Moyo, who then provided them to Ms. Goldbaum and Mr. Silva.

The prosecutions were separated on Tuesday and Mr Manhika will undergo a separate trial later this month.

The Times and the Committee to Protect Journalists have criticized Mr Moyo’s prosecution as a chilling message from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government about journalists’ ability to work.

Mr Moyo received further support this week from the South African National Editors Forum, which had previously expressed confidence in his innocence.

The group’s chief executive officer, Reggy Moalusi, said: “We support him and believe that, in the end, freedom of the media will prevail.” “We reiterate that Moyo is a legitimate journalist and his credentials are all over the board. His right to practice as a journalist must be upheld and respected by the Zimbabwean authorities.” Pause in Zimbabwe Freelance reporter trial for The Times

Fry Electronics Team

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