The IPI global network condemns the conviction in Zimbabwe on June 14 of New York Times freelance journalist Jeffrey Moyo on charges of breaching the country’s immigration laws. He was fined ZW$200 000 (about 525 euros) and given a two-year suspended sentence that could be enforced should he commit a similar offence in the next five years.

Moyo’s conviction comes after he was accused of procuring fake accreditation cards for two New York Times journalists, Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva, to get visas to enter Zimbabwe on a reporting visit in May 2021. The visas for the two were later cancelled by an immigration officer who claimed the accreditation was fraudulent. Moyo’s co-accused, Thabang Manhika, an officer with the Zimbabwe Media Commission who provided the documents, was acquitted.

IPI spoke to Moyo’s lawyer, who said the charges were baseless. In comments to the New York Times after his conviction, Moyo expressed disappointment but said he was relieved that he was not thrown into prison. He, however, stressed that he has followed the lawful procedures in trying to get accreditation for his colleagues. “I’m innocent”, he added.

Earlier this year, following Moyo’s arrest and detention for 21 days last year, the New York Times said that the charge levelled against the journalist was even considered by the government as “practically baseless”. Indeed, a government lawyer in Zimbabwe initially conceded that the case was “dubious” and on “shaky ground”. Moyo’s lawyers expect to appeal.

“We are greatly concerned by the prosecution and conviction of Jeffrey Moyo, which we believe is yet another example of the continued crackdown on press freedom in Zimbabwe”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “Moyo’s conviction sends a chilling message intended to silence independent journalism in the country. Authorities in the country must let journalists work without fear of legal reprisals. This sentence should be overturned on appeal.”