Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, the law contains some provisions that the government used to restrict these freedoms.
Freedom of Speech: The government remained sensitive to criticism by opposition leaders and their supporters, and it was quick to prosecute critics using the legal pretext that they had defamed the president or had incited public disorder. Most notably, police arrested several citizens for commenting on President Sata’s health. For example, on June 13, police in Lusaka arrested George Chimbela, Fresher Siwale, and Richard Hajika for publication of false news, alleging the trio claimed there would soon be a presidential by-election. In similar circumstances, on June 17, police arrested UPND Copperbelt provincial chairperson Elisha Matambo for predicting that President Sata would soon die and that there would be a presidential by-election.
On April 13, PF supporters stormed SUN FM radio in Ndola, disrupting a radio interview featuring UPND leader Hichilema. Hichilema escaped the supporters’ attack through the rooftop of the radio station. There were other instances of PF supporters accosting government critics and attempting to prevent them from conducting radio interviews; police did not prevent the harassment. The government monitored opposition political meetings.
Press Freedoms: The government ran two of the country’s four most widely circulated newspapers. Of the two private newspapers, one was antigovernment and the second was perceived as generally progovernment. Opposition political parties and civil society organizations complained that the two government-run and one progovernment private newspaper did not report objectively, despite the occasional story that criticized the government. In June the NGO Freedom House downgraded the country’s 2013 rating on press freedom from “partly free” to “not free.”
In addition to a government-controlled radio station that broadcasted nationwide, approximately 66 private radio stations broadcast, including community radio stations. Throughout the year, however, these stations experienced increased political pressure, including from nominally apolitical civil servants. The Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zambia (MISA-Zambia) and other media advocacy organizations expressed concern at what they termed the increased infiltration of ruling-party supporters on community radio station boards, frequent political interference in operations, and violence towards journalists. Although some local private stations broadcast call-in programs on which diverse and critical viewpoints were freely expressed, media bodies complained that journalists frequently received threats and intimidation from senior government officials and politicians after such programs. For example, on April 15, Copperbelt Provincial Minister Mwenya Musenge directed radio stations in the province to notify the police before hosting any political leaders. On June 16, Mongu Central Police Officer in Charge J. B. Kasanda instructed community radio stations in Mongu to cancel already scheduled and paid-for radio programs with UPND leader Hichilema.
On October 8, Minister of Youth and Sports Chishimba Kambwili visited the University of Zambia’s radio station and threatened to fire the station manager and presenter for discussing Kambwili’s earlier comments on the lack of scholarships (bursaries) for several thousand students at the university.
On November 23, according to the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), Kambwili entered the broadcaster’s newsroom uninvited and demanded ZNBC take off the air content that showed divisions in the PF and displayed a large-scale opposition rally. The following day ZNBC condemned the minister’s actions--as well as other intimidation over their coverage since the president’s death--and vowed to offer accurate news and differing viewpoints.
On December 4, High Court Judge Isaac Chali acquitted Foundation for Democratic Process Executive Director McDonald Chipenzi, Daily Nation owner Richard Sakala, and production editor Simon Mwanza of all charges related to their November 2013 arrest on charges of publishing information on allegedly secret police recruitment. In his ruling Judge Chali asserted that penal code section 67, which deems illegal “publishing false news with intent to cause fear and alarm,” was unconstitutional. Chali asserted that the constitution protects freedom of the press and speech and that the law he called unconstitutional was not “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.”
Although the government-owned ZNBC was the principal local content television station, privately owned Muvi Television gained wider coverage and viewership through satellite broadcasting than in previous years. Other privately owned and foreign-owned television stations also broadcast. International services were not restricted.
Violence and Harassment: Although the government stated that it tolerated negative articles in newspapers and magazines, several journalists reported receiving threatening telephone calls urging them not to print critical information. On June 2, Isoka district commissioner Joe Siwila and council chairperson Moses Simwanza flanked by PF district and constituency leaders Alex Muma, Jack Sinkutwa, and Gift Nyirenda, harassed Isoka FM station technician Mathews Mwandila, head of programs and current affairs Peter Sichali, and editor Jarine Namukoko, and took them to the police station. The PF supporters alleged the radio station allowed opposition UPND’s national chairperson Mutale Nalumango to agitate against President Sata by discussing stalled constitutional reforms and the depreciation of the kwacha. Police held the station manager incommunicado for two weeks, moving him from Isoka to Nakonde, Mbala, and then Lusaka, where he was released without charge.
In February in Northwestern Province, the Kasempa district commissioner accosted the station manager for Radio Kasempa for broadcasting content that exposed misuse of constituency development funds. Media watchdogs reported the district commissioner threw stones at the journalist when he attempted to leave; no charges were filed by either side.
Police continued to arrest and harass journalists. Progovernment political activists and state agents often subjected journalists to physical attack, harassment, and intimidation.
On May 21, police in Siavonga raided Kariba FM radio for allegedly broadcasting a news item that suggested police officers who were drinking during working hours must be transferred from the district.
On June 7, several police officers beat Post Newspaper journalist Oliver Chisenga while he took pictures of them beating a bus driver in Lusaka. The HRC publicly condemned the act and denounced the trend of attacks by law enforcement officers, politicians, and other members of society against journalists.
On June 27, a group of suspected PF supporters injured Faines Muyumba and Chris Kakunta, both freelance journalists, on suspicion they were behind a number of antigovernment stories published in the online publication Zambian Watchdog. The attackers allegedly later dumped the injured victims at Leopards Hill Cemetery. Police later claimed to have arrested the assailants but refused to disclose names; no trials occurred by year’s end.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government remained sensitive to media criticism. On May 27, the Independent Broadcasting Authority acting director, Eustace Nkandu, demanded a recording of Hot FM’s Breakfast Show, in which callers discussed the alleged failing health of President Sata. On May 29, the Independent Broadcasting Authority demanded Hot FM issue an apology to the president to run during the Breakfast Show’s entire upcoming broadcasts and all prime-time programs during the following week. MISA-Zambia termed this intervention “government intimidation” and a violation of media freedom.
On September 19, the National Assembly barred all private media from covering President Sata’s official opening of parliament inside parliament’s chambers. Parliament allowed only state-owned Zambia National Information Services, the ZNBC, and one government-aligned private newspaper inside parliament. Officials confined other private media organizations to a media center (approximately 660 feet from the parliament building) where they followed President Sata’s address on public television screens. Portions of the speech were rendered inaudible throughout ZNBC’s coverage. Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Joseph Katema at first denied media had been barred from covering the event, but Vice President Scott later apologized. MISA-Zambia sought court intervention, but the case did not come up for hearing until after the fact.
Libel Laws/National Security: Libel laws and laws against publishing false news with intent to cause fear and alarm, presidential defamation, prohibitions on possessing, producing, conveying, distributing, or displaying of any obscene matters that tend to corrupt morals, and criminal defamation were used to suppress free speech and the press. On March 2, then minister of information and broadcasting services Mwansa Kapeya threatened Kasama’s Radio Mano with deregistration for issuing “inflammatory statements.” Kapeya stated the government would not allow the radio station to continue entertaining persons who used derogatory language towards government officials. Radio Mano previously hosted opposition leader Frank Bwalya, who was arrested and later acquitted of defamation of the president.
On June 4, the Lusaka Magistrate Court granted Michael Muzondwa Achiume bail, after police charged him with “publishing false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public,” when he allegedly spread rumors about President Sata’s health at Lusaka’s Kabwata market.
In February the Lusaka Magistrate Court acquitted human rights and HIV/AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona, whom police had arrested in April 2013 after he publicly advocated for LGBT and sex workers’ rights on Muvi Television. Kasonkomona’s trial had also faced repeated delays for more than a year. In acquitting Kasonkomona of “soliciting for immoral purpose,” the presiding magistrate emphasized in his ruling that free speech was protected, “even though this topic is repulsive to the public.” A government appeal to the High Court was pending at year’s end.
Although access generally was not restricted and individuals and groups could freely express their views via the internet, the government frequently threatened online media with closure and harassed suspected contributors to online publications. The government, however, allowed intermittent access to the antigovernment online publication the Zambian Watchdog and the Zambia Reports, as well as other critical sites, which it had restricted in 2013. On May 4, however, Minister of Labor and Social Security Fackson Shamenda “declared war” on “mercenaries with political and criminal motives” who chose to “hide in cyberspace and have invaded the journalism profession.”
The trial continued of Clayson Hamasaka and Thomas Zgambo, journalists whom police arrested in 2013 on suspicion they contributed to the Zambian Watchdog. They faced charges of “possessing obscene material,” “possession of seditious material with intent to publish,” and “unlawful possession of a restricted military pamphlet,” respectively. On September 29, courts acquitted journalist Wilson Pondamali of all charges, which included possession of obscene material and theft of a library book.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.