Zamiba: MISA Statement on Press, 12/8/96

Zamiba: MISA Statement on Press, 12/8/96

Zambia: MISA Statement on Press
Date Distributed (ymd): 961208

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is a non-governmental organisation promoting media freedom and diversity in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region. For further information about MISA and/or the contents of this letter, please contact MISA's Information Unit on Tel. +264 61 232975, Fax. 248016, e-mail
David Lush
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Private Bag 13386
Windhoek, Namibia
Tel. +264 61 232975, Fax. 248016


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

In recent years, media freedom, freedom of expression and other basic human rights have come under increasing attack in Zambia. As the attached chronology of recent events suggest, the situation is set to deteriorate further in the wake of Zambia's recent elections.

Already civic organisations and sections of the media are suffering a back-lash from the authorities for questioning the legitimacy of the elections. And yet less than 25 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot in the November 18 poll as a result of flawed registration procedures, an opposition boycott, as well as general voter apathy and disillusionment. Former president Kenneth Kaunda, President Frederick Chiluba's main opponent, was barred from contesting the presidency as a result of a recent amendment to the constitution. There have also been reports of irregularities in the voting process.

For these and other reasons, three Zambian non-governmental organisations monitoring the elections declared that the poll was neither free nor fair. Subsequently the newly-elected government and supporters of the ruling party appear to have launched a campaign to discredit these organisations and those associated with them. This campaign could mark the start of a renewed clamp-down on the government's opponents and its critics, but more particularly sections of civil society - the media included - which, given the lack of opposition members in the newly-elected parliament, have become the last line of defence for Zambia's fragile democracy.

The previous MMD government was found by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in March to have failed on several counts to honour Zambia's commitment to the Universal Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A pledge to uphold and promote human rights was central to the MMD's election victory in 1991. However, human rights issues featured far less prominently during this year's campaign.

Our fear is that human rights and those who set out to uphold them are in danger of disappearing off the Zambian agenda. Therefore we ask that you and your colleagues pay particular attention to the situation unfolding in Zambia, and in coming months add your support to the efforts of MISA, its affiliates and other like-minded organisations to revive a culture of human rights and democracy within Zambia.

Yours sincerely,


Chronology of recent events in Zambia (source of information in brackets):

OCTOBER 23 - Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Controller of Television, Ben Kangwa, is suspended following the broadcast of a programme paid for by the opposition United Independence Party (UNIP), in which UNIP President Kenneth Kaunda explained his party's boycott of the forthcoming elections. Officially, Kangwa is suspended for "contravening ZNBC regulations" about the broadcast of paid-for programmes, but the Zambian Independent Media Association (ZIMA/MISA-Zambia) questions this: "In view of the numerous ZNBC productions which have favoured the ruling party at the expense of other parties...the penalty imposed on Mr Kangwa is far too severe." Kangwa is re-instated the following week. (MISA)

NOVEMBER 4 - The Opposition Alliance of parties boycotting the forthcoming elections bans state media workers from covering their activities. At a press conference, Alliance supporters and their leaders, Kenneth Kaunda and former human rights lawyer Rodger Chongwe, heckle and jeer journalists working for ZNBC, the government-owned press and the state-run news agency. Journalists working for the private media have previously been treated in a similar way when attending press conferences organised by the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy. (PAZA/MISA)

NOVEMBER 17: Ngande Mwanajiti, Chairperson of the non-governmental Clean Campaign Committee (CCC), says he is being followed by state security agents. "I know they are pursuing me because I do not agree with the present status quo," Mwanajiti is quoted in The Post as saying. "They think I have an agenda." (The Post).

NOVEMBER 18: UNIP politician Eve Kazembe, claims her life is in danger as a result of her participation in her party's election boycott. Kazembe tells The Post that her house had been burgled twice since April, and that state security agents were following her. She also claims that unidentified people had tried to set fire to her house on November 17 (The Post).

NOVEMBER 19: Members of the opposition Zambia Democratic Congress (ZADECO) force their way into the Kitwe television studios of the state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). ZNBC spokesperson, Keith Nalumango, tells ZIMA that the group of about 10 ZADECO members entered the studios at about 02:00 and demanded to appear live on television to protest about vote rigging in the previous day's elections. At the time the ZNBC was broadcasting the election results. Police finally persuade the protestors to leave the studios (MISA).

NOVEMBER 19: MMD provincial Deputy Minister, Anoshi Chipawa, threatens to dismiss a reporter working for the state-controlled Zambia Information Services (ZIS) for failing to file a story about his re-election. Chipawa enters the ZIS office together with MMD supporters and insists that he would "fire" reporter Musole Kaambeu. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Laura Harrison, says her ministry took exception to journalists being harassed. (MISA).

NOVEMBER 20: Police question Jowie Mwiinga, Editor of the CCC-funded Monitor newspaper, in connection with a story published in the November 21-28 edition of the paper in which opposition Zambia Democratic Congress (ZDC) President Dean Mung'omba urged foreigners to leave Zambia. Mung'omba was quoted in the story as calling on the government to nullify the November 18 elections "or face the consequences of their actions". (MISA)

NOVEMBER 21: The Opposition Alliance writes to South African President Nelson Mandela, who is Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and other regional heads of state warning of a possible military takeover in Zambia. In his letter, Alliance Chairperson Rodger Chongwe warns that if timely action was not taken to solve Zambia's political impasse, "what has happened to the north of the country will definitely happen here". (The Post).

NOVEMBER 22: Police search the offices of the CCC-funded Monitor Newspaper in Lusaka and seize computer disks, letters to the editor and various press releases. Monitor editor, Jowie Mwiinga tells ZIMA: "The police didn't seem to have a clear picture of what they were looking for. They just picked anything - giving an impression that they wanted to intimidate and harass us." The search of the Monitor co-incides with the searches of the CCC's offices and those of the Inter-Africa Network for Human Rights and Development (AFRONET), which share a building with the Monitor. Offices of the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) are also searched. (MISA).

NOVEMBER 25: Police obtain court orders freezing the bank accounts of three non-governmental organisations involved in election monitoring - the CCC, AFRONET and the ZIMT. At the same time, police search premises belonging to the three organisations. (The Post).

NOVEMBER 25: Six journalists working for the state-owned media are suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into allegations that they had conspired with the ZIMT to discredit the outcome of the elections. Former ZIMT Vice-President, Isaac Zimba, told a press conference on November 24 that the six journalists - Zambia Information Service (ZIS) Deputy Director Nalishebo Mundia, ZNBC Commercial Manager Abias Moyo, ZNBC Sub-Editor Gershom Musonda, Manager of ZNBC's Radio 2 Charles Banda, News Editor of the ZNBC's Kitwe desk Dominic Chimanyika, and ZNBC-Television personality Chibamba Kanyama - were recruited by ZIMT President Alfred Zulu to "project a positive image of the organisation (ZIMT), and to promote the ideals of the opposition." Zimba alleged that the journalists were appointed to the ZIMT board and were each paid a K200 000 (U$ 160) sitting allowance. Zulu says later that only Musonda, Banda and another ZNBC reporter, Rosemary Konkola, were members of the ZIMT board. Musonda denies using his position at the ZNBC to promote the interests of ZIMT. "I am a trained journalist who works professionally. When I am at ZIMT it's strictly ZIMT business and when I am at ZNBC it's strictly ZNBC business". Musonda believes his suspension was "politically motivated and probably linked to his membership of ZIMT". Banda later denies being a member of the ZIMT. (MISA)

NOVEMBER 26: It is announced that Dean Mung'omba, President of opposition ZDC party, and two of his colleagues have gone into hiding out of fear for their lives. Mung'omba had previously called for the formation of an interim government following the November 18 polls (The Post).

NOVEMBER 26: US-based human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) urges the international community, in particular the Paris Club of donors and the US government, to continue to pressurise the Zambian authorities with a view to improving the country's human rights situation. The improvement of human rights was "integral to good governance" says HRW. The Paris Club had previously agreed to withhold aid to the Zambian authorities with a view to achieving "tangible progress on the governance issue". (HRW)

NOVEMBER 26: Chairperson of Zambia's Electoral Commission, Judge Bobby Bwalya, threatens to have a journalist arrested. Reporter for the privately-owned The Post newspaper, Kunda Mwila, is threatened at the Electoral Commission's office where he has gone to inquire about delays in the announcement of election results. "Get out from here before I order your arrest. The elections are over -- what else do you want?" The Post quotes Judge Bwalya as telling Mwila, before slamming a door in the reporter's face. Bwalya later accuses The Post of lying and "misinforming people". ZIMA Chairperson David Simpson says: "It is saddening to see persons of the status of electoral commission Chairperson, Judge Bobby Bwalya, not only refusing to answer legitimate press queries but also threatening to have the pressman arrested...". (MISA)

NOVEMBER 28: Police summon Opposition Alliance Chairperson Rodger Chongwe for an interview in connection with the letter he wrote to SADC leaders about his organisation's fears that Zambia might be heading for a coup. Chongwe tells The Post he will not turn up for the interview because "I have not committed any offence". (The Post)

NOVEMBER 29: Six police officers arrive at Opposition Alliance Chairperson Rodger Chongwe's Lusaka home at 17:30, but leave having agreed to see Chongwe the following day. The officers return at 21:30 and insist that Chongwe goes with them to police headquarters. Chongwe, who is joined by prominent Alliance members including UNIP President Kenneth Kaunda, refuses to go with the police, who eventually leave the house after midnight. (The Post).

NOVEMBER 30: Fifteen ordinary and paramilitary police officers arrive at Opposition Alliance Chairperson Roger Chongwe's house at 15:00. He is out, attending an Alliance rally. (The Post).

DECEMBER 1: Police raid the home of Opposition Alliance Chairperson Rodger Chongwe at around 05:00. Chongwe is not at home. According to The Post newspaper, three paramilitary and five plain-clothed police officers scaled the walls of Chongwe's Lusaka home and searched the house, demanding that Chongwe go with them to police headquarters for questioning. "They had a search warrant which said they were looking for a subversive letter," Chongwe's wife Gwenda told The Post. "They looked everywhere for it, even under the bed, but they did not touch any piece of paper. "I think they just wanted to pick my husband and humiliate him. They were not interested in any letter." (The Post).



From: Message-Id: <> Date: Sun, 8 Dec 1996 12:53:10 -0500 Subject: Zamiba: MISA Statement on Press

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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