CJFE protests attacks on "The Post" journalists in Zambia

Tuesday, March 23, 1999

His Excellency Frederick Chiluba
President of the Republic of Zambia
State House
Lusaka, Zambia
Fax: +260 1 221939
E-mail: state@zamnet.zm, mfalus@zamnet.zm

23 March 1999

Your Excellency,

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-governmental organization which promotes free expression worldwide, strongly condemns the recent charges of espionage laid against journalists of "The Post" newspaper after a crackdown on independent media.

On 22 March, Zambian police arrested and charged "The Post" editor-in-chief Fred M'membe with espionage, then immediately released him on bail. He was informed that he was to appear in court on 16 April along with eight other journalists previously arrested.

Six journalists who had been arrested in a crackdown earlier in the month were formally charged on 17 March, but all were granted bail of K100 000 the following morning. Those arrested were Brighton Phiri, Kelvin Shimo, Joe Kaunda, Amos Malupenga, Lubasi Katunda and Goodson Machona. Douglas Hapande and MacPherson Muyumba were arrested briefly on 20 March and charged with espionage. This legal retaliation is seen as the latest move in a concerted effort to punish "The Post" for publishing an article that questioned the Zambian military's inability to quell an Angolan incursion.

Police detained the six journalists on 9 and 10 March for a couple of days after receiving orders to arrest all "Post" journalists. The following day police increased their pressure against the paper by surrounding "The Post"'s editorial offices and its printing press and preventing people from entering or leaving. Supplies of both power and water were cut. While those who remained inside managed to print the paper, police refused to allow it to be distributed. The edition eventually hit the streets the next day.

CJFE believes these charges are politically motivated because "The Post" refuses to toe the government line, and because the paper reports on issues that anger the government. We therefore urge the immediate end of the harassment of the "Post" and its employees.

Yours truly,
Wayne Sharpe
Executive Director

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