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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Zambia

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Zambia, February 1999, available at: [accessed 21 January 2018]
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.

As of December 31, 1998

In the wake of a 1997 coup attempt, President Frederick Chiluba's ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) party arrested and prosecuted opposition politicians for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the government. Journalists who sought to cover the coup attempt and the trials have risked assault, detention, censorship, and legal action.

Although Chiluba has lifted the state of emergency he imposed after the coup attempt, his government has continued to crack down on the independent press. Zambia, in fact, holds the record for more pending criminal defamation cases and other legal actions against journalists than any other country in Africa.

Nevertheless, the independent press has remained resilient and undaunted. The independent daily newspaper The Post has been a watchdog over the Chiluba government from its inception, and authorities have responded with a torrent of lawsuits over the years. On January 20, as part of their ongoing attempts to permanently silence The Post, MMD members of parliament called for the arrest of Fred M'membe, editor in chief of the paper, for contempt of parliament in connection with an editorial published in the January 16 edition. M'membe, a 1995 recipient of CPJ's International Press Freedom Award, and his colleagues at The Post, have been the target of numerous lawsuits within the last two years.

As the government sought to limit coverage of the alleged coup plotters' trials, journalists and media outlets reporting on the proceedings found themselves in harm's way. On February 1, police assaulted Amy Merz, a cameraperson for the Cable News Network (CNN), when she attempted to film Kenneth Kaunda, the former president and leader of the opposition United National Independence Party, outside the courthouse where he was facing charges of alleged involvement in the attempted coup. On April 7, police detained Dickson Jere, a reporter for The Post, in connection with an interview he conducted with Kaunda. And on May 19, state authorities obtained an ex-parte injunction from the Ndola High Court barring The Post from publishing statements made by witnesses in the treason trials of the alleged conspirators. Journalists for the state-owned daily newspaper Zambia Daily Mail faced disciplinary action for publicly protesting the newspapers' limited and biased coverage of the trials.

Although the country has privatized several industries, Chiluba has reneged on pledges to liberalize the state-dominated broadcasting sector by granting licenses to independent journalists. The few privately owned radio stations offer little news on local political events, nor do they carry international news. The most popular privately owned station, Radio Phoenix, is an affiliate of both the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation. Since 1997, however, it has been barred from carrying foreign broadcasts. Local television programming is limited to the government-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). Although the opposition has some access to the ZNBC, the majority of programming is slanted toward the government. Trinity Broadcasting, a 24-hour evangelical station whose programming originates in the United States, is the only other television outlet in the country.

The Post and the two government dailies,the Zambia Daily Mail and the Times of Zambia, are available to an international audience on the World Wide Web, but because of the high cost of computer equipment and service provider fees, Internet access is beyond the reach of most of Zambia's citizens.

Attacks on the Press in Zambia in 1998

6/25/98Steward Mwila, Crime News, ConfidentialImprisoned
5/19/98The PostCensored
4/8/98Dickson Jere, The PostHarassed
4/7/98Masautso Phiri, The PostLegal Action
2/1/98Amy Merz, Cable News Network (CNN)Attacked
1/20/98Fred M'membe, The PostHarassed
1/13/98Fred M'membe, The Post Legal Action
1/13/98Reuben Phiri, The Post Legal Action
1/13/98Lucy Sichone, The Post Legal Action
1/8/98Graham Robertson, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)Censored
1/8/98Eddie Taderera, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)Censored
1/8/98Zambia Information Services (ZIS)Censored
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