Zambia: the IFJ urges authorities to protect independent journalism

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), representing 600 000 journalists around the world, joins its affiliate, the Zambian Union of Journalists (ZUJ), in urging the authorities to protect independent journalism, following the arrest of Fred M’membe, editor-in-chief of the independent Zambian newspaper The Post, and two members of his staff. On 21 June, the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) seized the newspaper’s assets over the company’s alleged tax evasion, amounting to $6 million. On the 27 June, the Revenue Appeals Tribunal overturned the order to seize The Post’s property, thereby allowing the newspaper to resume publishing. Police refused to acknowledge the interdict, arresting Fred M’membe, his wife Mutinta and deputy managing editor Joseph Mwenda as they entered newspaper headquarters in Lusaka Zambia, the following day. They have since been released on bail and will appear in court next week facing numerous charges, including breaking and entering the newspaper’s building. Despite its offices being closed down by the government last week, The Post continued to publish its regular criticism of President Egard Lungu, currently up for re-election, from a secret location. Mwenda assured the public that the newspaper would continue publishing ‘with a ballpoint pen’ if necessary. M’membe argued that shutting down the paper over financial disputes was simply a means of silencing the press before the general election on 11 August. IFJ President Philippe Leruth said: “The forced closure of one of Zambia’s main independent newspapers would be an outrage at any time. In the run-up to the election it is a blatant attempt to silence alternative voices. The authorities must reverse their decision and protect, not punish, independent journalism and media”.

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