International media organisations have strongly condemned what they say is an ongoing campaign in Zambia to silence The Post editor Fred M’membe and his newspaper.
On Wednesday, over 20 armed police officers raided the M’membe residence on Nangwenya road in Rhodespark and arrested Dr M’membe’s wife Mutinta.
Police arrived at M’membe’s home with a search warrant at around 5 p.m. and arrested his wife after she argued with officers and tore up a warrant they presented. Witnesses also alleged that police roughed up Mazoka M’membe.
Mutinta was detained for two nights at Lusaka Central Police and released on bail. She is expected to appear in court on March 3rd 2017 for obstructing justice after she tore a search warrant.
The Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute have also condemned the warrant of arrest for Dr M’membe and his lawyer Nchima Nchito and the raid at the M’membe residence in his absence.
The two media bodies have condemned the arrest of Dr M’membe’s wife Mutinta and the detention of Former Post Managing editor Joan Chirwa for more than hours 27 hours for simply being in M’membe’s home when police raided it.
In separate statements, the two organisations say what is going on in Zambia is an extraordinary campaign of harassment.
International Press Institute Director of Advocacy Steven M. Ellis notes: “It is difficult to see the continuing persecution of Fred M’membe as anything but a politically-motivated attempt to silence criticism of President Edgar Lungu’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party and an attack on media freedom in Zambia.”
CPJ contacted Zambia’s Information Minister Kampamba Mulenga this week and held a lengthy discussion.
Ms. Mulenga insisted that this was not a media freedom issue and that President Edgar Lungu’s government was not involved in hounding The Post out of business.
However, CPJ research on the issue has raised several red flags that feed into the perception that those hellbent on victimizing M’membe and The Post are acting as proxies for the government
“It is an extraordinary tale and while the world’s attention is elsewhere, it would appear that a massive injustice is playing out in Lusaka, where the rule of law is subverted.”
Meanwhile, Opposition All People’s Congress Party leader Nason Msoni says the Zambian government has declared lawless assault on the private media and is waging a full scale assault on the independent private media and journalists.
“The mutiny and confiscation of a printing machine from the Mast Newspaper and the recent violent lawless assault and brutal arrest of the wife of Post Newspaper (in liquidation) editor Fred M’membe now confirms our worst fear,” Mr Msoni said.
“The unfolding developments are worrying and pointing to extreme intolerance of a free press and criticism. We think that there is no genuine commitment by the PF government to any measure of freedom of the press and indeed the legislation on the Freedom of information.”
He added, “It is all just a plastic cosmetic political assertion lacking any sense of realism. The bare-face of the ugly scheme to stifle the free press and media freedoms under the disguise of archaic civil litigation has been exposed. By all means this is not a government you can trust with the delicate and fragile process of withdrawing from the international Criminal Court-ICC unless you want to shoot yourselves in the foot.”
Meanwhile, the Mast Newspaper has managed to publish its Sunday edition today, a day after Police confiscated a printing machine suspected to belong to the Post Newspapers which was alleged to be used by the Mast Newspaper.
According to newspaper vendors in Lusaka, the Mast Newspaper has fast established itself as the most selling daily in the capital city with its highly anti-PF headlines.