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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Zambia

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Zambia, February 1997, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

February 5
Fred M'membe, The Post, IMPRISONED
Bright Mwape, The Post, IMPRISONED
Masautso Phiri, The Post, IMPRISONED

President Frederick Chiluba issued a decree banning the print edition of the Feb. 5 issue of the independent daily The Post as a "prohibited publication" under Section 53 of the Penal Code, and warning that any citizen found in possession of the issue could be charged with committing a criminal offense. The issue contained articles revealing the Zambian government's plan to hold a referendum in March to promulgate a controversial draft constitution. Editor in chief M'membe, managing editor Mwape, and special projects editor Phiri were arrested on Feb. 6 and charged with possession of a banned publication and possession of state secrets, a violation of Section 4 of the State Security Act. The three journalists were released on US$350 bail on Feb. 7, the same day that Chiluba ordered, by decree, the removal of the Feb. 5 issue from The Post's World Wide Web site, marking the first act of censorship on the Internet in Africa. On March 18, the High Court revoked the journalists' bail and The Post's lawyers immediately filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. At the time of the bail revocation, M'membe and Mwape were already in prison on other charges. In addition to writing a letter to President Chiluba urging him to reverse the ban and drop all charges against M'membe and his colleagues, CPJ launched a media campaign in March to bring world attention to the Zambian government's systematic harassment of the country's independent press. On Aug. 14, M'membe, Mwape, and Phiri pleaded not guilty in the Lusaka High Court to the charges that they had received and published classified information. The trial, which began on Oct. 18, continues. The state dropped the charge of possession of a banned publication because it could not prove "beyond [a] reasonable doubt that the three accused were found in possession of a state document containing information on the constitution."

February 21
Fred M'membe, The Post, IMPRISONED
Bright Mwape, The Post, IMPRISONED
Lucy Banda Sichone, The Post, THREATENED, LEGAL ACTION

Managing director and editor in chief M'membe, managing editor Mwape, and columnist Sichone (with her three-month old infant) went into hiding on Feb. 23 to avoid imprisonment on charges of contempt of Parliament. On Feb. 21, the Zambian National Assembly had found the three journalists guilty of violating the National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act, a colonial law prohibiting nonmembers of Parliament from criticizing proclamations made by members of Parliament. The National Assembly Standing Orders Committee sentenced the three journalists to detention until they publicly apologized for breach of Parliament. In the Jan. 29 edition of The Post, M'membe, Mwape, and Sichone wrote articles commenting on the vice president's criticism, in Parliament, of a Supreme Court ruling that the clause of the Public Order Act requiring citizens to obtain police permits for demonstrations and other public gatherings is unconstitutional On March 4, M'membe and Mwape surrendered to parliamentary authorities, explaining that they would not apologize to the Parliament. M'membe pleaded with the speaker of the National Assembly to absolve Sichone, who remains in hiding, of blame. Attorneys for The Post petitioned the Supreme Court with a writ of habeas corpus challenging the National Assembly's use of the Powers and Privileges Act to arrest and detain their clients. M'membe and Mwape were held in separate maximum security prisons for 24 days. On March 27, Supreme Court Judge Kabazo Chanda ruled that it was unreasonable to imprison M'membe and Mwape indefinitely, and ordered that they be released on bail. But Judge Chanda also ruled that M'membe's and Sichone's articles were in contempt of Parliament. Mwape was absolved of any charges of contempt. Judge Chanda advised Sichone to appear before Parliament. CPJ protested the charges and arrests in letters to President Chiluba and to Robinson Nabulyato, speaker of the National Assembly, and launched a letter-writing campaign to secure the journalists' release.

November 19
Zambia National Broadcasting Corp. (ZNBC), HARASSED

Ten members of the opposition Zambia Democratic Congress (ZADECO) forced their way into the Kitwe television studios of state-owned ZNBC. They demanded to appear on live television to declare their objections to alleged manipulation of the Nov. 18 presidential and parliamentary elections. Police based at ZNBC persuaded the ZADECO protesters to leave the TV studios.

November 22

Police searched the offices of the Monitor newspaper and seized 13 computer diskettes, letters to the editor, and various press releases from international organizations. Police searched the offices of the Committee for a Clean Campaign (CCC), which is the Monitor's publisher, the Inter-Africa Network for Human Rights and Development (AFRONET), and the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) on the same day. They were looking for bank books, statements, certificates of registration, computer disks, pamphlets, and magazines. The authorities did not disclose why they were conducting the searches. Both the CCC and ZIMT reportedly had declared that the presidential and general elections of Nov. 18 were not free and fair.

November 25
Mundia Nalishebo, Zambia Information Service (ZIS), CENSORED
Abias Moyo, Zambia National Broadcasting Corp. (ZNBC), CENSORED
Gershom Musonda, ZNBC, CENSORED
Dominie Chimanyika, ZNBC-Kitwe, CENSORED
Chibamba Kanyama, ZNBC, CENSORED
Charles Banda, ZNBC Radio 2, CENSORED

ZIS deputy director Nalishebo; television station ZNBC's commercial manager Moyo; ZNBC subeditor Musonda; ZNBC-Kitwe news editor Chimanyika; ZNBC producer Kanyama; and ZNBC Radio 2 manager Banda were suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into allegations that they conspired with a local election monitoring group, the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT), to discredit the Nov. 18 presidential and general elections. ZIMT was among three independent monitors of the elections that declared that the victory of President Frederick Chiluba's Multiparty Movement for Democracy (MMD) was "not free and fair."

November 25
Emmanuel Chilekwa, Chronicle, HARASSED
Onassis Mandona, Chronicle, HARASSED

Chronicle managing editor Chilekwa and assistant editor Mandona were detained and interrogated at the Lusaka Central Police offices. They were questioned about a story printed in the Nov. 22-25 issue of the privately owned biweekly, which quoted opposition Zambia Democratic Congress (ZDC) leader Dean Mung'omba as calling for the "isolation" of President Frederick Chiluba. On Nov. 22 and 23, two Criminal Investigations Department (CID) police officers had visited the editorial offices of the newspaper seeking to interrogate Chilekwa and Mandona about their sources.

November 26
Chibamba Kanyama, Zambian National Broadcasting Corp. (ZNBC), HARASSED

Kanyama was dismissed from ZNBC because he had been working at the same time for his own news agency, the Chibamba Kanyama Media Agency (CKMA), and because he had accepted 21 million kwacha (about US$16, 000) from the Committee for a Clean Campaign. He allegedly used the money to produce a series of television-debate programs on the topic of the November presidential and general elections.

December 26
George Jambwa, Chronicle, IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Army officers arrested Jambwa, a journalist for the privately owned newspaper Chronicle, for allegedly "trespassing into the army barracks." Jambwa had been attempting to verify reports that Zambia's army commander, Lt. Gen. Nobby Simbeye, was under house arrest. Rumors had linked Simbeye to an alleged coup attempt against the government of President Frederick Chiluba. Interrogators pressured Jambwa to reveal his sources. Jambwa appeared before the Lusaka Magistrate Court on Dec. 30 to answer charges of "criminal trespass" under section 306 of the Penal Code. He pleaded not guilty and was released later that day on 50, 000 kwacha (US$38) bail, plus two sureties of 50, 000 kwacha each. The court scheduled a trial for Jan. 21, 1997.

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