Agence France-Presse | 21.05.2003 22:49
Agence France-Presse, France, May 20, 2003
PARIS, May 20 (AFP) - The French foreign ministry said Tuesday it regretted the expulsion from Zimbabwe of US journalist Andrew Meldrum and criticised escalating human rights abuses in the southern African country. "France regrets that Meldrum was expelled from Zimbabwe... in spite of a Zimbabwean court decision ordering his release," said foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.
France, which came under fire for inviting Zimbabwe's authoritarian leader President Robert Mugabe to a summit in Paris earlier this year, "deplores the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe," Valero said. Paris "encourages the Zimbabwean government to respect the freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom of the press," he said.
Meldrum, a correspondent for Britain's Guardian newspaper who had lived in Zimbabwe for the past 23 years, was one of the last remaining foreign journalists in the country. He was put on a plane to London on Friday despite a High Court order staying his deportation.