Promises of a freer media environment by the Patriotic Front, which won election in 2011 after a campaign that pledged greater broadcast media freedom and a law promoting access to information, had yet to be fulfilled by late 2013. Journalists operated cautiously lest they fell afoul of thin-skinned authorities, and staff members at state-owned publications risked early retirement or redeployment into bureaucratic jobs for not toeing the party line. At least five journalists faced criminal charges in 2013; all of them had reported critically on the government. The newly established Independent Broadcasting Authority awarded private broadcast licenses, but its independence was questioned when President Michael Sata revoked certain licenses. Of the country’s three major newspapers, two were state-controlled and the Post, once highly regarded for its independence, supported the ruling party in 2013, leaving few outlets where journalists could report freely. The government targeted at least three critical websites over the year, forcing one of them to repeatedly move servers--a virtual game of cat-and-mouse.
Police detained two journalists of the Daily Nation on December 12, 2013, and released them on bail the next day. Richard Sakala, owner and editor of the paper, and Simon Mwanza, the production editor, were charged with "publication of false information with intent to cause public alarm" under Section 67 of the Zambian penal code.
The charges leveled against a Zambian journalist suspected by authorities of being linked to the blocked news website Zambian Watchdog make for interesting reading.
Cape Town, July 30, 2013--Zambian authorities should stop blocking access to critical news websites and halt their harassment of journalists accused of working with the websites, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today after reports emerged of widening government obstruction.
Cape Town, South Africa, July 17, 2013--Zambian authorities should stop their ongoing harassment of the Zambian Watchdog, a site that reports on alleged government corruption, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police arrested another journalist they accused of contributing to the site, and blocked domestic access to the site for the second time, according to the Watchdog's editor and news reports.
The African Union's special rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, has launched an auspicious initiative in East Africa to counter criminal defamation and sedition laws. Since independence, authorities and business interests in the East and Horn region have used criminal laws on sedition, libel, and insult--often relics of former, colonial administrations--to silence their critics in the press. "Criminal defamation laws are nearly always used to punish legitimate criticism of powerful people, rather than protect the right to a reputation," Tlakula said in a statement.
Cape Town, South Africa, June 27, 2013--A private website that documents alleged Zambian government corruption has been blocked in the country since Monday, its editor told CPJ. The Zambian Watchdog's Lloyd Himaambo has said that the website's staff believes the authorities are responsible for ordering the blocking.
Internet and mobile service providers blocked domestic access to the Zambian Watchdog, a site that is registered out of the country but publishes content by Zambian journalists and editors, Himaambo said. The editor told CPJ that access to the site was possible only via one of the country's three cellphone networks and that traffic to the website had been reduced by two thirds.
Nairobi, December 31, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in Zambia to thoroughly investigate accusations that a well-known rhumba musician attacked a freelance photographer on Friday at a concert in Lusaka, the capital.
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