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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid