Prof Fackson Banda condemns Post closure, appeals to President Lungu to intervene

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President Edgar Lungu speaking when he held a breakfast meeting with the French Investors in Africa at Le Meurice hotel in Paris France
President Edgar Lungu

Internationally respected media scholar Professor Fackson Banda has appealed to President Edgar Lungu to personally intervene in the Post Newspapers tax row which has resulted in the Zambia Revenue Authority shutting down the publication.

Professor Banda said President Lungu should personally intervene in the matter, not only because of his legal background which included supporting organisations like the then Zambia Independent Media Association (ZIMA) on its Legal Defence Fund also because he simply can.

Professor Banda who is now based in Paris, France working with UNESCO as a Programme Specialist said President Lungu understands what is at stake if the Post Newspapers remains shut.

Professor Banda said it is bad politics especially that curtails oppositional voices at a time when election campaigns are in high gear.

Below is Professor Banda’s full statement.

Taxing The Post into ‘silence’ is a grave mistake

Needless to say, as one who has spent the better part of my professional life advocating for fundamental freedoms, which include the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, I am not enthused by ZRA’s attempt to close down The Post.

I have just spoken to Fred M’membe. He assures me his newspaper was not opposed to paying what they owe ZRA, despite the differing interpretations of the figures. In fact, he tells me The Post was, until yesterday, living up to its share of PAYE and VAT payments. That is not for me to comment on.

But I can proffer a thought on the larger issues surrounding this saga, particularly given their ramifications for democratic politics.

This is not a well-calculated move. First, no matter how legalistically one chooses to approach it, it smacks of political interventionism. As part of a larger discourse of freedom of expression and media development, states the world over are encouraged to uphold the principle of non-discrimination in tax issues. In a word, the state should not use taxation or business regulation as a way of preferring some media outlets over others, for either political or commercial gain. There is evidence to suggest that The Post is not the only media house that has tax problems in Zambia.

Second, because media organisations can be used as a vehicle for amplifying people’s voices, imposing prohibitive taxes or levies on them can amount to a tax on free speech itself. Now, we may question the professional mooring of The Post’s brand of journalism, as indeed is our right, but it still contributes towards building a genuinely pluralistic society in which different voices vie for attention. None of us would want our voices to be subject to such a heavy-handed tax regime that they risk being silenced.

The media — as a possible arena for vocal contestation — must enjoy a special place in our democratic politics. No matter how much we hate a particular media outlet, given the changing faces of party-politics, we will almost always find ourselves in need of such a media outlet. Politicians should know better!

Third, at international law, it is a requirement that democratic states must seek to reach a balance between the state’s right to raise taxes and the fundamental human rights of taxpayers. This is provided for in several international instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Charter of Human Rights, among others.

Moreover, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights goes further to protect freedom of expression. Arguably, under the ICCPR logic, any state curtailment of a media organisation’s right to exist should pass the three-fold test of being (i) necessary; (ii) proportionate; and (iii) narrowly defined in law.

ZRA’s action cannot be reasonably said to be absolutely necessary. Nor can it be said to be a proportionate response to The Post’s alleged failure to settle its tax arrears. I doubt very much the Zambian law is so clear-cut as to be applied in this disproportionate fashion. Human rights lawyers can comment on this more authoritatively than I can ever hope to.

Fourth, it is bad politics. Not now. It actually curtails oppositional voices at a time when election campaigns are in high gear. It casts the ruling party in a bad light, at least with some independent voters (despite the highly polarised politicking in the country, there are still independent voters who can be swayed one way or the other!).

In conclusion, I appeal to the Republican President to personally intervene in this matter, not only because of his legal background which included supporting organisations like the then Zambia Independent Media Association (ZIMA) on its Legal Defence Fund (along with me and others) but also because he simply can.

I know he understands what is at stake.

He has already demonstrated leadership on the constitutional process. It is not too late.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. Please, advise the Post to pay the debt, while are you blaming it on ZRA?? whats wrong with this country? one the one others condemn ZRA for not collecting enough taxes, on the other you blame them when they want to collect? whats wrong with this Country? aaaah!

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    • The Post is not 100% a media outlet, it’s partly a political party. The POST has been failing to meet it’s tax obligations because it is fighting government on many fronts, including sponsoring the Rainbow Party. Let those who’re crying for the Post put resources together and pay the taxes so that it can be reopened.

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    • Tabakwata mano batata aba!Mule kolwa fye lyonse ba vodka chakolwa wrungu…VIVA HH 2016

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    • UNFORTUNATELY MY BROTHER YOU ARE TALKING TO DUNDERHEAD LUNGU. WITH HIM ALL WHAT HE HAS IS OBSESSION FOR POWER. WHICH WE ALL KNOW IS ONLY POSSIBLE BY HOOK AND CROOK. COME 11 AUGUST LET US ALL COME TOGETHER AS ZAMBIANS AND FLUSH OUT THIS DICTATOR AND WOLF IN A SHEEP SKIN. LUNGU HAS INTRODUCED HOOLIGANISM AND WARMONGERING IN OUR COUNTRY. WE MUST STOP THIS UGLY AND ALIEN CULTURE IN OUR LAND BY VOTING OUT LUNGU. VIVA HH VIVA! VIVA UPND VIVA! ZAMBIA FORWARD WITH CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT.

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    • PROF.BANDA: WHILE I SUPPORT YOUR CONDEMNATION OF THE CLOSURE OF THE POST, I DON’T THINK YOUR APPEAL TO LUNGU MAKES SENSE AS HE IS THE ONE WHO DIRECTED ZRA TO CLOSE THE POST. THE BEST IS TO TELL HIM IN THE FACE THAT YOU WILL START DECAMPAIGNING HIM IF HE DOES NOT LET THE POST TO OPERATE FREELY. THE COUNTRY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LUNGU. THE POINTS YOU HAVE GIVEN TO SHOW THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ROLE OF THE PRESS ARE VERY CLEAR AND VALID. THEIR IMPORTANCE CANNOT BE IGNORED OR UNDERRATED.

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    • STOP CALLING THE POST NEWS PAPER AS MEDIA, BUT A POLITICAL PARTY. PROF. BANDA AS MUCH WE DESIRE THE POST TO BE OPEN, THIS GUYS SHOULD REALIZE THAT THEY ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW. ONE THEY INSULT PEOPLE WHO ARE SEEN TO WALK A DIFFERENT LINE FROM THEM, JUST LOOK AT THE WAY THE INSULT THE PRESIDENT ECL EVERYDAY. COME GUYS ADVICE THE POST.

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  2. IN THIS DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY WE LIVE IN!

    WE HAVE A PRESIDENT TRYING TO SILENCE AN ORDINARY CIVILIAN LIKE ONE OF HIS CHILDREN!

    NO! THE POST IS A CORPORATION WITH ITS OWN PARENTS WHO HAVE CAREFULLY NURTURED IT FOR 25 YEARS!

    WHY WOULD A PRESIDENT ATTEMPT TO USE STATE MACHINERY TO SILENCE WHAT IS FOR THE PEOPLE AND NOT HIS?

    WE ARE A MAJORITY AND I PROMISE YOU! THIS LAST BLOW IS FOR LUNGU NOT THE POST!

    NO SYMPATHY! WE WILL EAT YOUR MONEY AND VOTE ELSEWHERE! WE DID IT WITH RUPIAH! WE DID IT WITH CHILUBA! NOW YOUR TURN!

    AS DUMB WITTED AS YOU ARE THE PEOPLE SUPPORT THE PAPER! EVEN YOUR OP AGENTS SEE INSTEAD OF MAKING A LOSS! THE PAPER HAS GAINED SYMPATHY AND MUCH MORE PROFITABLE!

    THE POST HAS RESOURCES SCATTERED ACROSS THE WORLD AND MOST IMPORTANTLY THEY HAVE THE PEOPLE WHO…

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    • K don’t worst the Post’s time just pay for them and see whether they won’t re-open. The Post should have been championing the cause of the voiceless by pointing out all politicians and businessmen/women who don’t pay tax. How can it do that when it doesn’t. So after they remit their taxes let them go flat out and tell us who doesn’t pay tax.

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  3. Naimwe a Banda, how do you expect Lungu to intervene in this matter when he is the one behind the scene of Post Newspaper closure ? So are you blind of what is obtaining in Zambia ? The man is absolutely desperate of winning the 11th August elections and you think he can take your humble advice just like that ? What Lungu deserves right now is a countrywide uprising because the man thinks he owns Zambia and the Zambians.

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  4. AS FOR ZRA!

    STARTING FROM THE HEAD OF THE TAX COLLECTORS TO THE LEAST!

    WE KNOW YOU ARE ONLY JUST BEEN USED, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT AND WE THE PUBLIC FORGIVE YOU!

    WE ALSO KNOW YOU NEED JOBS TO FEED YOUR FAMILIES AND YOU HAVE A MICROMANAGER LIKE LUNGU!

    IT IS MY ADVICE YOU STAND YOUR MORALE GROUND AND PROTECT WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU LONG RUN!

    THE POST HAS OUTLIVED HOW MANY PRESIDENTS? INCLUDING HOW MANY TAX COMMISSIONERS?

    YES! IT IS THE OBLIGATION OF THE POST TO FAITHFULLY HONOUR ITS TAXES, HOWEVER IT IS THE ZRA OBLIGATION TO FACILITATE USING ALL REASONABLE MEANS! WHEN YOU ASK YOURSELVES IN THOSE BIG AIR CONDITIONED OFFICES AND THOSE NICE CARS YOU DRIVE

    IS THIS FAIR? IS IT THE TRUTH? IS THIS WHAT YOU WORK FOR?

    I HOPE YOU HEADS HAVE AN ANSWERS! BE WISE LIKE THE…

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    • Thanks K! I hope someone from ZRA has understood your point.They are lacking professional integrity…VIVA HH 2016

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  5. Lungu should re-think his decision to close the Post. This decision is losing Lungu some votes and with Amnesty international adding its voice Donor Aid Agencies will soon join the foray and this will put pressure on the Kwacha. By the polling date the Kwacha will be back to K15 and inflation will be in the 30% range and cost of living will sky rocket. This will sway most voters to vote for opposition parties. Relying on rigging alone without some degree of popular support will make Lungu lose these elections.The writing is on the wall.

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  6. I pay tax with the little money i earn for my salary why shud post not pay tax when they make millions. The money post owe ZRA could go a long way to help buy medicines in clinics. what is this professor thinking when is condemning this, is Fred special.

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    • Think again you idiooot! how did vodka chakolwa lungu aquire that wealth? He is using our money for campaign idiooot! VIVA HH 2016

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    • No it doesn’t work like that. Post is not in arears for PAY AS YOU EARN, which you as an employee pays monthly to government. Post owes company TAX
      First ZRA said they wanted K15million then the went throught the sums and came up with K100million, and now they want K73million – what is the correct amount kanshi?

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  7. Let ZRA also close the Times of Zambia, Daily Mail and ZNBC because we are told these institutions owe ZRA much more than the Post.

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  8. In order to develop as a nation companies and pipo should pay tax.ZRA just collect taxes on behalf of govt.We can’t expect anything in the country if pipo are not paying taxes.When govt makes a budget it depends on the ZRA to collect the taxes.Where do u expect salaries of civil servants to come from if we are not paying taxes.The same Post is saying why the salaries are being delayed but they are forgeting that civil servants to make any money hence salaries depend on companies which pay taxes.Kuwayawafye mu Zambia.I have never seen pipo like us who just support anything even it’s stupiiiiid.I pay tax when should Fred fail to pay in the name of politics?

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  9. Yes, The Post should pay taxes, Period! However, we should ask President Edgar Lungu to interven so that jobs are saved at the post. In any case, very few people now read the post, not because of the price, but because of its content. M’membe can continue insulting and peddling lies, but this will not help those that want to go to state house through hate and bitterness. Remember, Chanda Chimbwi’s Stand up Zambia and RB? Did that ever help RB? That just made people sympathize with SATA. So in the same way, I expect Edgar to get a lot of sympathy from the “common man.”

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  10. Was ECl at the Supreme Court? All of your saying he will lose votes are not voting for him any way.. People that support ECL and PF support the decision of the Courts of Law. Post is not the only media in Zambia so there is press freedom. If THE WATCHDOG was closed after paying tax I would understand. Between HH, GBM and all of your guys complaining you can help the Post. Otherwise celebrate if you think people won’t vote for PF because ZRA is doing their work. The court has ruled. Why has Fred been looking for ECL after the verdict? BOMA NI BOMA

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    • one zambian, well said comrade. the law is abundantly clear. zra issued a warranty of distress according to the law. if the state wanted to close the post, it would have simply withdrawn the operating license. involving or pointing a finger at the president in this issue is being mischievous. the issue has been overblown by the vindictive media. voting for or not for the president in the forthcoming elections is a matter of personal choice based on individual situations and circumstances.

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  11. Thanks Professor for your mature approach, that is how you develop a country by mutual understanding and respect. But I can assure you your friend is arrogant and especially knowing that this election time & most pipo will be interrupting politically. For other company taxes it is okey to delay but for PAYE why deduct & not remit????? Plse let him sober up, de-touch himself as a person from the Post. We need true fare coverage public or private or accuse.

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  12. Hi Fackson, so you made a call to Fred and promised that you will put in a word on his behalf to the President so that he is forgiven his debt? What form of intervention to you hope to get from the President?

    Good day and take care my good friend who is enjoying life in France were people pay their taxes…

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  13. How do you trust Lungu and team further on referendum? Is this not one of the rights in the bill of rights? What messages is he telling the nation – to vote for politicians only in the booth if at all there will be elections. Clearly we can see that he is pushing for state of emergency so he can extend his stay in office after allowing his ministers in the first place. additionally, he is testing the waters to gauge the reaction of Zambians for further rigging strategies as he did last year. To me the best would ve to call in international community to supervise the elections cause even the security wings fear Lungu now at the expense of national peace and sanity. Zambia is a mixture of Zimbabwe and Uganda now.

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  14. NoNOno y should the presedent be in this every one has to pay tax even i pay if i did not pay zar guysa would have sold my house so than y hold big big parteys at his house and spend tax money any how let him pay plses

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  15. Lungu is the one who ordered the Post to be closed on behalf of his boss RB. How can he then “intervene”? What a pointless statement

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  16. Fred Mmembe and post are not providing any solutions but all what they want is attention. Why should the President come in, to encourage tax invasion which is criminal activities no ways whilst same Fred has debts with DBZ its the abuse of office.

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  17. I have known Fackson for a long long time, as students as Unza, in the UK and back home before he went on to RSA and finally France..I have never known him to be so one sided in a debate….Let me just sum it up like this went we once protagonists that the powers of a Presido need to be curtailed but now we are saying he must ‘use’ his powers to intervene? Am lost!

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  18. Seriously Fackson Banda, you appealing to Lungu to intervene when its common knowledge the reason post was closed is because of him. grow up man plse.

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  19. It is my belief that The Post must comply with, and pay, taxes due to ZRA; and that the Post has the right to inform the public, as the platform for freedom to and right expression. However, I don’t buy the idea that the Post wants to use sympathy from the MEDIA fraternity, int he name of ‘free speech’ to shun payment of taxes. Worse still, why should Edgar Lungu be involved in ZRA matters? Isn’t this interfering with independence of the ZRA? Let Mmembe pay the tax arrears and stop hiding behind the MEDIA fraternity; you cannot run a country on bank overdrafts. If he was being witch-hunted after complying with all requirements, then you can blame the government.

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