Bulawayo regional magistrate Mark Dzira on Tuesday found Harare-based New York Times correspondent Jeffrey Moyo guilty of violating the country’s Immigration laws after he allegedly helped foreign journalists gain fake media accreditation cards.
Dzira handed Moyo, 37 a six-month sentence or a ZWL$200, 000 fine.
On an additional sentence, the magistrate also wholly suspended two years on the condition that he does not commit a similar crime in five years.
However, following the ruling, Moyo’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was quick to highlight her displeasure indicating that she was going to appeal against both conviction and sentence.
“We are going to appeal against both the conviction and sentence, ZWL$200 000 is the maximum amount allowed in terms of that section of the Immigration Act, we do not believe that the highest fine was justified.
“We believe we have very good prospects of success on appeal because the judgment was not really based on the evidence led. There is a lot of surmise and conjecture in the judgment,” said Mtetwa.
However, before handing down the ruling, Dzira took time to advise Moyo over the crime he committed which he described as unnecessary and that “crime never pays.”
“With the evidence before the court, it is clear that the accused may have connived” to obtain fake accreditation cards for the Times journalists,” said Dzira.
He went on to say the way Moyo committed the crime was clumsy and not smart enough to escape the long arm of the law.
“Your defence counsel argued that your moral blameworthiness was very low, I disapprove, your moral blameworthiness was very high because this was the crime you were not supposed to have committed. You forged documents on behalf of these two people who might as well have been saboteurs and could have easily endangered the country,” Dzira said.
Meanwhile, Moyo was an elated man after the ruling was handed down.
“I feel quite relieved, I would like to thank my legal team for a job well done to set me free from this whole case. It’s been a whole year travelling from Harare to Bulawayo for this case. I was afraid that they were going to throw me in jail, that place is horrible, I wouldn’t want to go there again,” he said.
Moyo was arrested in May last year on allegations of providing fake media accreditation cards to South Africa-based Times reporters Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva so they could enter the country for a week-long assignment.
He was released on bail three weeks later, while the NYT pair were expelled back to South Africa four days after their arrival.
The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), which is responsible for issuing media accreditation, claimed the foreign journalists had been denied clearance to work in the country and that their names did not appear on their accreditation register.
In the early 2000s, Zimbabwe introduced legislation barring foreign journalists from working in the country for long periods and requiring them to seek accreditation for every assignment.