International Press Institute has expressed concern over the arrest and
upcoming trial of Zambia Post newspaper Editor Chansa Kabwela.
reportedly said the Zambian government is using trumped-up criminal charges as
a tool for intimidating and harassing journalists critical of the government.
Kabwela, whose trial is to begin August fifth, is charged with distributing
obscene materials in order to corrupt what the government called the morals of
She reportedly sent pictures to government officials of a woman whose
baby died while giving birth outside of a hospital during Zambia’s long nurses’
strike this year.
Sam Mujuda, legal counsel and deputy editor-in-chief for
Post newspaper said the newspaper felt it was
doing a citizen’s duty by sending the pictures to Vice President George Kunda.
we saw the pictures as editorial management, the pictures were quite
disgusting; they were quite gruesome, quite shocking. And we decided that we
could not publish them in the newspaper…so we decided that the most important
thing was to bring it to the attention of the authorities,” he said.
said the Post editors sent the pictures to Vice President Kunda because they wanted
the government to take action to end the protracted nurses’ strike.
decided to send them to the Vice President because we felt the government was
not doing anything tangible to resolve this strike action… so we felt there was
need for the government to take this case quite seriously…so we felt we did a
noble duty, apart from being journalists, but as members of society,” he Mujuda
denied that the Post newspaper was making a political statement by sending the
pictures to the vice president.
sent these pictures in secrecy. This issue was never discussed until the
president came out openly at his press conference to discuss about those
pictures,” he said.
accused the Zambian government of looking for ways to shut down the Post
president did not see the suffering of that woman. I think it is him who has
decided to bring politics into it. He’s bringing politics to it because it’s
the Post newspaper that brought it out. The president is on record as having
vowed to make sure that the Post is closed,” Mujuda said.
Zambian Information Minister Mike Mulongoti, speaking in his capacity as an
independent Zambian citizen, said Editor Kabwela violated Section 177 [1A] of
law prohibits receiving, circulating, [and] possession and once you are found
with them, you must now justify why you are found with them,” he said.
denied the Post accusation that the arrest of Kabwela was yet another move by
the Zambian government to shut down the Post.
I do not know whether the indictment is against the Post or against the editor
because she’s the one who wrote the letter which accompanied these pictures.
And this is why they went for the author of the letter,” Mulongoti said.
He said Zambian courts are independent,
and that Editor Kabwela is innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution.