The Editor-in-Chief of The Post newspaper
of Zambia – Fred Mmembe - has been ordered arrested and jailed by a chief magistrate for failing to
appear in court after he had been cited for contempt.
The Post carried an opinion
article last month written by U.S.-based law professor Muna Ndulo of Cornel
University in which he criticized the Zambian government for the ongoing trial
of Post news editor Chansa Kabwela.
Post acting editor Sam Mujuda said editor-in-chief Mmembe did
not intentionally disobey the court's order.
is quite surprising for the court to issue the order because we feel we gave
all the reasons why our editor did not come to court because he has been on study
leave…and that is why he didn't come to court, not that he was trying to
undermine the authority of the court," Mujuda said.
Information Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha said it is illegal in Zambia to write
about an ongoing court case.
in Zambia, there is a law that says once the case is in the courts of law you
cannot discuss it. The prosecution saw it; they went ahead and made an
observation that there was a legal problem where The Post newspaper had written
on the case that was in court," Shikapwasha said.
But Mujuda said Zambia does not have a jury system that could
have been swayed by a newspaper article.
"It would be very interesting for you to realize that in
Zambia we don't follow a jury system which would be influenced by such an
article. Whatever in that article was not prejudicial to the case," Mujuda
He said the Zambian legal system is going through an
"I don't want to lend myself again into multiple contempt of
court (charges) because whatever I say now it can just end up lending me into
multiple contempt of court (charges). It's very interesting what is going on
now," Mujuda said.
Information Minister Shikapwasha said Zambian courts are
independent of the government.
But Mujuda said it is up to Zambians to judge what is going
on in their country.
News Editor Chansa Kabwela
is on trial distributing obscene materials in order to corrupt what the
government called the morals of society.
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 earlier this year.