Andrew Meldrum pleaded not guilty. Then the president of the court adjourned the trial waiting for witnesses from Magunje (230 km of Harare).
Andrew Meldrum will appear in court on 12 June 2002 as the first journalist to be tried under Zimbabwe’s new press law. Andrew Meldrum, who is correspondent for the British newspapers The Guardian and The Economist and for Radio France International (RFI), is charged with "abuse of journalistic privileges by publishing falsehoods" and risks two years imprisonment if convicted.
"We call on the judiciary to show their independence of the government and to do all they can to see that the charges against him are dropped," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert MÃ©nard. "He was simply doing his job and nothing can justify his imprisonment for this."
"Usually when journalists are arrested in Zimbabwe, they are freed on bail almost immediately, after which the case drags on for years and very rarely comes to anything," he said. "In this instance, the government seems to have decided to fast-track the case and apply this very repressive law."
Andrew Meldrum quoted in The Guardian an item from the Zimbabwean paper Daily News that said militants of the ruling ZANU-PF party beheaded a woman in a village in northwestern Zimbabwe. A few days later, the Daily News said there was no proof this had happened and apologised to the ZANU-PF. Two of the paper’s reporters, Lloyd Mudiwa and Collin Chiwanza, were arrested on 30 April. The next day, Andrew Meldrum was picked up as well. All three were freed on bail on 2 May.
Reporters Without Borders notes that since the press law (the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) came into force on 15 March, 11 journalists have been charged with 21 charges. President Robert Mugabe is on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of 38 predators of press freedom