LUSAKA, Zambia — Numerous reports indicate that Zambian free speech is under fire by the government, which is engaging in intimidation tactics to hinder freedom of the press in the African Nation.
Freedom House, a non-partisan U.S. non-governmental organization that investigates human rights violations across the globe, recently declared Zambia to be a ‘non-free’ zone. The organization cites an unhealthy level of government intervention in Zambia’s media outlets, as many state officials are making concerted efforts to squash voiced opposition against the government.
Last year, the government banned Zambian Watch Dog and Zambian Reports from its domestic population. Alongside these abuses, Zambian police have arrested several journalists accused of contributing to these sites. The state went as far as to charge one writer, Thomas Zyambo, with sedition; a sentence that allowed officials to confiscate Zyambo’s laptop, recording devices and notebooks.
Although these acts garnered significant international media attention, the government has employed more subtle methods to thwart Zambian free speech as well.
The government continues to engage in smear tactics to alienate journalists who have voiced opposition to the ruling party. Courts have also repeatedly issued dubious interpretations of archaic laws in order to punish those accused of ‘dispensing false information.’
Zambian President Michael Sata recently testified in open court against the editor of the Daily Nation newspaper, a gesture widely considered to be a scare tactic aimed at honest journalists. In a press release, the Media Institute of Southern Africa echoed this pervasive sentiment.
“This has definitely sent shivers to many citizens and the media where holding the president accountable as Zambia’s elected leader is concerned. We are fearful that the media will not be able to feature people who want to criticize the president because of fear of being taken to court by the president personally.”
International human rights organizations need to continue to raise awareness about the deteriorating situation and pressure the ruling party to end their abusive involvement in media outlets.
If you would like to learn more about the current situation, you can read about it here.