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Mtetwa wins press freedom award

ZIMBABWE Independent director and human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, was this week honoured for her determined efforts to defend press freedom, currently under siege.

-serif”>Mtetwa, a veteran media lawyer, was a recipient of the prestigious 2005 Press Freedom Award by the New York-based campaign group, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). She joins three journalists – from Brazil, China and Uzbekistan – who were also recognised.

The CPJ described Mtetwa as “a tireless defender of press freedom” in a country “where the law is used as a weapon against independent journalists”.

“Despite being arrested and beaten because of her work, she continues at great personal risk to defend journalists,” the CPJ said.

Mtetwa said yesterday she was “naturally happy” to receive the award but dedicated the accolade to those committed to the cause of press freedom and freedom of expression.

Her work has offended the authorities. In October 2003 she was arrested on allegations of drunken driving and taken to a police station where she was held for three hours and assaulted before being released without charge.

She had in fact approached the police to report an attempted carjacking incident.

In one of her most publicised cases, Mtetwa in 2003 rushed to Harare International Airport, armed with a court order, to prevent the deportation of Guardian correspondent Andrew Meldrum.

Meldrum had been abducted by the police and was deported despite a High Court order instructing immigration officials to release him.

“The legal space has become narrow, especially in the superior courts when appointments are made not on the basis of expertise but political patronage,” Mtetwa said.

“The media space has also shrunk. More and more violations are occurring and are not getting exposure.” – Staff Writer.

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