So This is Democracy? Zambia – 2017
Freedom of Expression and of the media in Zambia has remained a dream with the continued suppression of divergent views.
Media freedom came under the glare of the spotlight in June 2016, with the closure of The Post – Newspaper one of the oldest privately-owned dailies in Zambia – due to a dispute with the Zambian Revenue Authority over unpaid taxes.
This was seen by critics as a move to eradicate an alternative critical voice ahead of the crucial election process of voting.
The glimmer of hope on the horizon was the birth of News Diggers Newspaper which hit the streets on 18th December, 2017 and was established by former staff members of the defunct The Post.
On yet another positive side, the year 2017 coincided with what Zambia had anticipated for a long time – Digital Migration. This arguably has contributed to offering of an alternative national wide voice to the government controlled Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC).
- The Judiciary banned the media from taking photographs in courts and using explicit langue in their reportage. The judiciary said it was concerned that some journalists from different sections of the media and public had been taking photographs and videos of proceedings inside the court rooms.
- Suspected political party supporters allegedly assault two journalists, Silumesi Malumo from Radio Phoenix and Prisca Banda of Millenium Radio, at the United Party for National Development (UPND) secretariat after police prohibited a press conference scheduled that day.
- Luapula Province Minister, Nickson Chilangwa, threatened to close down K-FM Radio of Mansa if it continued to feature people that criticize government on its radio programmes. The threats came after the radio station carried a news item that quoted Dr Chishimba Kambwili criticizing the Patriotic Front government and labelling them as corrupt.
- PF cadres stormed the premises of 5FM radio station in Lusaka during the airing of a radio programme featuring NDC Consultant and PF Roan MP Chishimba Kambwili.
- Police reportedly detained Edward Makayi, a student of the DMI St Eugene University in Lusaka, in connection with the publication of defamatory statements on his Facebook page which he created under the name Royson Edwards.
The current levels of intolerance to dissenting views are a source of worry to the realisation of freedom of expression and of the media.
This however, presents an opportunity in 2018 for various advocates to intensify calls to uphold freedom of expression and the media.
For the full report: So This Is Democracy – Zambia (2017).