Post Newspapers workers were this morning prevented from entering their offices as armed police officers kept the gates to the premises closed.
When the workers reported for work this morning, they were ordered to go back and they ended up gathering on the pavement along Bwinjimfumu road which houses Post Newspapers head offices.
Most of the workers kept high spirits throughout the process as members of the public stopped by to offer solidarity.
And MISA Zambia officials this morning toured the closed Post Newspapers officers and interacted with the newspaper management to get an update on the situation.
MISA Zambia Chairperson Hellen Mwale and Director Austin Kayanda revealed that the media body toured the Post Newspaper to ascertain the situation and show solidarity.
Ms. Mwale has since called on the Zambia Revenue Authority to immediately reconsider its actions to shut down the newspaper.
She has questioned the move to close the Post and the lack of due process as the move was clearly politically motivated.
She further questioned why ZRA had not moved on other companies that owe sums much bigger then what was at the centre of the Post tax claim.
The MISA Zambia Chairperson noted that the Post had indicated it will to comply and had even paid the principle sum which therefore brings into question the genuineness of the ZRA action in addition to their refusal to recognise a lawfully obtained court injunction.
She also called on all media practitioners to put aside all differences and stand to protect the freedom of the press which is under threat.
Ms. Mwale has reiterated the Post’s role in promoting democracy and offering a platform to dissenting views, which have been blacked out in most media outlets.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission is appealing to the State to reconsider the decision to close down the Post Newspapers and save throwing hundreds of workers into unemployment thereby adversely affecting the welfare of their families.
HRC Chief of Information, Education and Training
Mweelwa Muleya said the Commission appreciates the fact that the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) exhausted the legal process leading to their action to close the Post Newspapers.
Mr Muleya said it is also a matter of human rights law that the State is entitled to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions.
“It is however the view of the Commission that there should be further room for negotiations to find an amicable solution to meeting the tax obligation of the Post Newspapers without necessarily closing it. The Commission wishes to advise that there is need to use negotiations, mediation and conciliation methods rather than exclusively using a legalistic approach in this matter,” he said.
He said the Post Newspapers is also one of the institutions of good governance involved in promoting and protecting fundamental human rights and freedoms in Zambia.
Mr Muleya said the Post has over the past 25 years played a pivotal role in safeguarding and consolidating democracy and development.
“It has particularly been instrumental in promoting the right to freedom of expression of divergent viewpoints, providing checks and balances to various State and Non-State institutions and individuals as well as in promoting transparency and accountability,” he said.
It would be a sad chapter in the development of Zambia’s democracy if a drastic action was taken to close the Post Newspapers. It is hoped that there will be high level intervention in this matter aimed at giving the Post Newspapers an opportunity to meet its tax obligation while continuing operating. The Commission believes that allowing the Post Newspapers to operate while ensuring that it meets its tax obligations will be in the best national interest.”
Meanwhile, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has condemned the closure of The Post newspaper by the PF Government in the strongest terms.
Mr Hichilema said this is a blatant attempt to manipulate and suffocate any remaining free-thinking media ahead of elections in 50 day’s time.
“While the last truly independent voice among our print media-The Post – has been hounded over the past 18 months and now closed on account of its tax obligations, the outstanding ZRA and statutory debts of the various pro government media outlets such as ZNBC, Daily Mail and Times of Zambia continue to go ignored,” Mr Hichilema said.
He said attempts by President Lungu and his government to use ZRA against The Post to intimidate the paper, its editor and its staff into following the editorial line of State House are in direct opposition to the values of democracy and threaten the very existence of a free press in Zambia altogether.
He said the levels of media censorship and manipulation under the government of Edgar Lungu are unprecedented during Zambia’s years of multi-party democracy and if we do not speak out now then it will be too late.
“President Lungu should know that a free press is a vital lifeline in any country. Where people are unable to see different views reflected or debated in the public sphere, levels of frustration in society will only escalate further. The deep concern we have now, and what we have already started to see happening, is that when the people feel there is no verbal outlet of expression or representation of their views then physical action quickly becomes more commonplace.”