Key Developments

  • In slim foothold for freedom of expression, new radio licenses issued, then revoked.

  • Online publications are blocked, while journalists face criminal charges.

Promises of a freer media environment by the Patriotic Front, which won election in 2011 after a campaign that pledged greater broadcast media freedom and a law promoting access to information, had yet to be fulfilled by late 2013. Journalists operated cautiously lest they fell afoul of thin-skinned authorities, and staff members at state-owned publications risked early retirement or redeployment into bureaucratic jobs for not toeing the party line. At least five journalists faced criminal charges in 2013; all of them had reported critically on the government. The newly established Independent Broadcasting Authority awarded private broadcast licenses, but its independence was questioned when President Michael Sata revoked certain licenses. Of the country's three major newspapers, two were state-controlled and the Post, once highly regarded for its independence, supported the ruling party in 2013, leaving few outlets where journalists could report freely. The government targeted at least three critical websites over the year, forcing one of them to repeatedly move servers – a virtual game of cat-and-mouse.

[Refworld note: The sections that follow represent a best effort to transcribe onto a single page information that appears in tabs on the CPJ's own pages, which also include a number of dynamically-generated graphics not readily reproducible here. Refworld researchers are therefore strongly recommended to check against the original report: Attacks on the Press in 2013.]

Websites blocked: 3

Zambian authorities cracked down on critical publications in 2013. In an effort to stifle criticism, the government blocked news websites that documented government corruption, and journalists faced a series of charges.

Breakdown of censorship:

June 2013
The government blocks access to Zambian Watchdog, a news website that has published critical stories on the ruling Patriotic Front party. Weeks later, the authorities search the homes of two journalists, Thomas Zyambo and Clayson Hamasaka, and briefly detain them, accusing them of being linked to the website. Both journalists are released, but Zyambo is charged with sedition and Hamasaka with possession of obscene material.

A game of cat-and-mouse follows as the Zambian Watchdog moves to another server, but in mid-July authorities block that, too. A third journalist, Wilson Pondamali, is detained, accused of being linked to the site, and is later released. The site moves again, making use of proxies. Late in the year it was still accessible.

The Zambian Watchdog remained blocked inside Zambia in late 2013.

July 2013
Authorities block access to Zambia Reports, an online publication that has been critical of the government. The staff sends a letter to the government, asking why the site has been blocked, but receives no reply. In August 2013, access to the site is restored.

September 2013
The government briefly blocks domestic access to the online publication Barotse Post, and the online radio station Radio Barotse in western Zambia, both of which advocate a separate Barotse state. Barotseland separatists argue that at the time of Zambian independence in 1964, they, too, were promised independence, but that successive governments have reneged on this pledge.

Cases against the press: 7

Authorities lodged charges against at least seven journalists in 2013, accusing them of, among other charges, failing to register their publication and publishing false information.

Under Zambia's Printed Publications Act, it is an offense to print or publish a newspaper without having first registered the publication. The director of the state-run National Archives must maintain a registry of all newspapers, and anyone who produces any printed matter must deliver a copy to the National Archives. Failure to do so may be punished with a fine.

Charges against journalists:

January 2013
Freelancer Chanda Chimba is charged with unlawful publishing of two newspapers: Stand Up for Zambia and News of Our Times. Authorities accuse him of not registering the papers with the National Archives. The case is continuing in late 2013.

Also in January, Chimba is charged with defamation in connection with a TV documentary series he produced, Stand Up for Zambia, that criticized Michael Sata in the run-up to the 2011 elections and was shown on the state broadcaster in 2011. Sata and Mutembo Nchito, director of public prosecutions, bring defamation suits against Chimba. The case is continuing in late 2013.

January 2013
Ngande Mwanajiti, publisher of the private online news site The Zambian, is charged with unlawful production and printing a paper that is not registered with the National Archives. The case is continuing in late 2013.

July 2013
Authorities accuse two journalists, Thomas Zyambo and Clayson Hamasaka, of being linked to the Zambian Watchdog. Zyambo is charged with sedition, and Hamasaka is charged with possession of obscene material. In late 2013, police added the charge of possession of obscene material against Zyambo. The cases were ongoing in late year.

August 2013
The government accuses journalist Wilson Pondamali of being linked to the Zambian Watchdog and charges him with various claims of unlawful possession of military stores, attempted escape from lawful custody, malicious damage to government property, and theft of a library book. Pondamali denies the charges. The case is continuing in late 2013.

December 2013
The police detain Richard Sakala, owner and editor of the Daily Nation, and Simon Mwanza, the production editor, and release them on bail the next day. The journalists are charged with "publication of false information with intent to cause public alarm in connection with a Daily Nation report that cited concerns about the recruitment process for the Zambian police. The journalists denied the allegations. Their trial is scheduled to begin in early 2014.

Press freedom violations: 16

CPJ documented at least 16 cases of anti-press violations in 2013, including arrests, assaults, and official harassment.

Breakdown of some abuses:

May 20, 2013
Kennedy Phiri and Francesca Phiri-Banda, two reporters for Muvi TV, are assaulted by unidentified assailants while interviewing a property owner whose land was invaded and claimed by squatters.

June 15, 2013
Muvi TV journalist Njenje Chivu is attacked by unidentified assailants while filming clashes between supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front and the opposition United Party for National Development (UNDP) in the capital, Lusaka. His camera is seized, according to a report by media freedom groups.

July 17, 2013
Patriotic Front supporters storm Radio Mano, a community radio station in northern Zambia, and occupy the station for more than five hours, preventing opposition leaders from participating in a scheduled program, according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA). The Patriotic Front's provincial office apologizes and the interviews are pre-recorded and aired the following day.

July 18, 2013
A Muvi TV crew, including reporter Dainess Nyirenda and cameraman Annita Kalwani, is attacked by unidentified assailants while covering a land dispute in Lusaka West. Nyirenda, Kalwani and their driver are all injured.

Licenses issued, 2 revoked: 4

In late September 2013, Emmanuel Mwamba, chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, announced that nationwide broadcasting licenses were being issued to three private radio stations and one TV station: commercial music station Qfm, the Lusaka-based Radio Phoenix, Christian Voice, and Catholic TV.

One month later, on October 28, President Michael Sata overturned the decision to license Radio Phoenix and Qfm. Forty-eight hours later, Mwamba was officially "retired, according to news reports.

In a cabinet meeting the same day, which was monitored by the Zambian chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Sata said he had ordered the national licenses revoked because they could compromise Zambia's "integrity, according to news reports. Sata said that some of Radio Phoenix's shares were owned by foreigners and that the station frequently aired views from opposition parties.

A week later, when opposition parties in parliament criticized Mwansa Kapeya, broadcasting minister, for the decision, the official responded by saying that only he could issue licenses – and not Mwamba, according to news reports.

In 2011, one of Sata's election campaign promises was the liberalization of Zambia's airwaves and a law promoting access to information. Halfway through his five-year term as president, neither had been enacted.

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