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Zimbabwean Reporter Convicted, Fined on Fake NY Times Accreditation

FILE - A portrait of Freelance journalist for the New York Times, Jeffery Moyo poses for a photograph after his release from detention at the Bulawayo prison in Bulawayo on June 16, 2021. (Photo by Zinyange Auntony / AFP)

A Zimbabwean court convicted and fined a freelancer on Tuesday for violating the country's immigration regulations by allegedly providing bogus accreditation documents for two New York Times journalists.

The Bulawayo magistrates court gave on Tuesday Journalist Jeffrey Moyo a suspended two-year sentence and 200,000 Zimbabwe dollars fine (about $650 US dollars), according to a statement by media freedom advocacy group, the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

Police arrested Moyo in May of last year, accused him of providing fake credentials to two foreign journalists from a New York Times newspaper on a reporting trip to Zimbabwe. The two foreign journalists were deported, and Moyo was held for three weeks before being released on bail.

This is not a precedent in Zimbabwe as the East African nation has a history of prosecuting non-state media journalists, and many international correspondents were forbidden from working in the country during the late President Robert Mugabe's dictatorship.

However, when President Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed power in 2017, he promised to liberalize the media as part of democratic reforms. Opponents of the government, on the other hand, accuse him of breaking that promise.

In response, the Committee to Protect Journalists slammed the court's ruling, saying it demonstrates Zimbabwe's persistent suppression of the press.

"Today’s conviction of journalist Jeffrey Moyo is a monumental travesty of justice and shows how far press freedom has deteriorated in Zimbabwe under President Emmerson Mnangagwa,” Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, said in a statement.