News / Africa

Journalists Facing Increasing Threats in Zambia

Practicing journalism has become one of the more dangerous things to do in Africa’s largest copper producer, Zambia.  The country -- once seen as a model of democracy in southern Africa -- has seen a sharp rise in threats and physical attacks on journalists.

The Patriotic Front was ushered into office in the September 2011 elections on the platforms of enhanced freedom and democracy.

Ask any journalist in Zambia and they will tell you that promise has not been kept and in fact, the opposite is occurring.
 
Harassment and intimidation of people working in the media -- especially those identified as critical of the ruling party -- is on the upswing.
 
In less than two weeks, three journalists have been arrested and charged by the Zambian police with various offenses ranging from sedition and defamation to unlawful possession of restricted military material.
 
Some opposition lawmakers, like Charles Kakoma, are expressing serious concern that these arrests are in violation of the law and basic human rights in the country.  "We have seen in the recent past journalists being harassed, being beaten and media organizations being threatened with closure like UNZA Radio.  And now they have turned on to the online publications and they have been trying to close down online publications.  Fortunately they have failed to do so because some of them are not registered in Zambia and therefore beyond their jurisdiction,” he said.
 
The plight of two journalists associated with the online publication Zambian Watchdog have come to the attention of the international media.  Clayson Hamasaka and Thomas Zyambo had their homes raided earlier this month, were arrested and Zyambo has been charged with sedition and is scheduled to appear in court July 26.
 
Zambian Watchdog is known for citing unnamed sources in reports about alleged government corruption.
 
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on July 17th called on the Zambian government to stop its harassment of the Zambian Watchdog and stop blocking domestic access.  The CPJ called it “alarming” to see a democratically-elected government trying to silence and intimidate critics.
 
Kakoma, a journalist himself, said he feels sad about what is happening and notes he thinks there was more media freedom under President Kenneth Kaunda’s one-party 27-year rule.  
 
 
“Obviously we used to operate under a one-party state of fear.  But this time around it has worsened.  And I feel very bad that this government is taking us many years backwards.  This government is basically shredding democracy and that is unacceptable, Kakoma said. "As a journalist, I feel that that should be fought.”
 
Opposition lawmaker Gary Nkombo said efforts to counter this media onslaught through legislation have been stymied in the National Assembly.
 
“It is also clear that they [ruling party] have deliberately delayed the bringing of the Freedom of Information bill to parliament as one of their ways to shut down progress regarding the articles contained therein.  I think that today is a very sad day for this country and for many people who have been depending on the online publications, because the online publications have not only been very informative but they have created a platform for people to decipher the difference between the state-sponsored media, which at all stages stifles the flow of information and only support their existence to continue their hegemony and to suppress other ideas,” noted Nkombo.
 
Zambia's President Michael Sata has been known to sue political opponents and media critics, including the Zambian Watchdog, for defamation and libel.  His chief spokesman and head of the Information and Broadcasting Services, Kennedy Sakeni, agreed to be interviewed for this report.  But he later cancelled by text message.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs