Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, it has derogations that permit restrictions of these fundamental rights and freedoms in certain circumstances. In particular, Article 22(3) allows the restriction of freedom of expression in the interests of national defense, public safety, public order, and public health or for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights, and freedoms of others and maintaining the authority and independence of the courts. Based on these provisions, the government can restrict these freedoms using subsidiary laws such as the Penal Code, Public Order Act, Preservation of Public Security Act, and Emergency Powers Act.
Freedom of Expression: The government remained sensitive to criticism in general, particularly by the political opposition and civil society, and restricted the ability of individuals to freely criticize it or discuss matters of general public interest. For example, in November, Gregory Chifire, director of the Southern Africa Network Against Corruption, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on four counts of contempt of court. The charges were leveled against him following a letter he wrote to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Irene Mambilima, as well as articles he published in local print and online media in which he alleged corrupt practices within the judiciary. When he could not substantiate those claims in court, he was found guilty of contempt and received a penalty.
Press and Media Freedom: The government published two of the country’s four most widely circulated newspapers. One of the two privately owned newspapers opposed the ruling PF party, while the other supported it and the government. Opposition political parties and civil society organizations contended government-run media failed to report objectively. Although state media covered government-sponsored and nongovernmental events, coverage was not fair; state media failed to educate and inform citizens in an objective, balanced, and clear way, civil society organizations reported.
In addition to a multichannel government-controlled radio station that broadcasts nationwide, approximately 73 private and community radio stations broadcast. These radio stations experienced political pressure. Although some local private stations broadcast call-in and other talk programs on which diverse and critical viewpoints were expressed freely, media bodies claimed journalists who appeared on such programs received threats from senior government officials and politicians. Independent, private media outlets also often received threats from the government for providing airtime to the opposition. For example, ruling party officials threatened to have Sun FM’s Lusaka radio license application disqualified for broadcasting a November 2 interview with UPND leader, Hakainde Hichilema, who alleged that the government sold the Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation to Chinese business interests.
According to media watchdog organizations, independent media failed to operate freely due to restrictions imposed by government authorities. Police reportedly failed to follow up journalists’ assault cases, while some media houses were threatened with closure for unfavorable or lack of coverage of the president. On several occasions police used force to interrupt broadcasts. For example, on April 13, police stormed KFM radio in Mansa and stopped a radio program in which Chishimba Kambwili, who is both a PF MP and a consultant for the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) party, was on air during a local government by-election.
Violence and Harassment: The government stated it tolerated negative articles in newspapers and magazines, but there were numerous reports that showed government, ruling party, and some opposition officials and supporters harassed, threatened, and physically and verbally attacked journalists. For example, on January 27, during a cholera outbreak in Lusaka in which the president deployed military wings to clean up street vendors in Lusaka’s central business district, Michael Miyoba, a reporter from a private newspaper, was abducted and beaten by military officers. According to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia, the officers allegedly pulled his genitals as punishment to curtail media reports on their operations. In a case demonstrative of societal violence towards journalists, especially during election periods, on June 5, UPND cadres attacked seven journalists from various media houses, including The Mast, News Diggers, Radio Phoenix, and Prime Television, during the Chilanga parliamentary by-election.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government remained sensitive to media criticism and indirectly censored publications or penalized publishers. Numerous media watchdog organizations reported that the harassment and arrest of journalists, threats by the government to introduce punitive legislation against media personnel, restriction of their access to public places, and undue influence, among other restrictions, compromised media freedom and resulted in self-censorship.
Libel/Slander Laws: The government and individual public figures used laws against libel, slander, or defamation against critics to restrict public discussion. The government also often used sedition laws against those critical of the government. For example, on November 20, Copperbelt Province police issued a “warn and caution” statement to opposition UPND leader, Hakainde Hichilema, following his appearance in front of police for “investigations” related to his earlier discussion on live radio of a rumored sale of a parastatal firm. The statement charges that the leader’s discussion on live radio amounted to the offense of sedition. Although not officially charged, the statement required the suspect to acknowledge the nature of the allegation, and left open the possibility for arrest later.
Although access generally was not restricted and individuals and groups could freely express their views via the internet, the government threatened individuals using online fora with arrest and online media with closure. For example, on several occasions the government restricted access to antigovernment online publication Zambian Watchdog and other sites critical of the government. MISA Zambia reported that the government monitored internet communications without legal authority and sought to restrict social media content. On March 19, police in Mansa summoned Radio Mano station manager Crispin Ntalasha for a Facebook post, which was seen as an indication of state surveillance of private citizens on social media. Later in June media reported that Zambia Information and Communications Technology Agency (ZICTA) warned WhatsApp group administrators in Zambia to register with ZICTA or face arrest and prosecution for noncompliance.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, 27.8 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were reports of government restrictions on academic freedom and cultural events. For example, on September 29, Kenyan Professor Patrick Lumumba was denied entry into the country and returned to Kenya. Professor Lumumba was invited by Eden University, a Lusaka-based private university, to give a public lecture on the topic: “Africa in the age of Chinese influence and global geo dynamics.” According to Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya, Lumumba was denied entry due to “security considerations.”
Similarly, on October 27, University of Zambia (UNZA) management canceled a planned lecture by PF Bahati Constituency MP and presidential contender Harry Kalaba. Kalaba, a former foreign affairs minister, who has made his 2021 presidential aspirations clear, was, on October 30, scheduled to discuss “Africa’s relations with the rest of the world” at UNZA Great East Road Campus. The cancellation came in the wake of an “overwhelming response” from members of the public confirming to attend the lecture, according to organizers of the event.
The constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the government restricted this right, and police and progovernment groups disrupted meetings, rallies, and other activities of opposition political parties and civil society organizations. In dealing with demonstrators, police adopted heavy-handed practices such as surrounding the venue to prevent meetings from taking place, forcefully breaking up demonstrations, and arresting demonstrators.
The Public Order Act requires political parties and other groups to notify police in advance of any rallies but does not require formal approval or permit. In 1995 the Supreme Court declared provisions in the act that previously gave police the power to regulate assemblies, public meetings, or processions unconstitutional. The police, however, have continued to disregard this landmark ruling and continued to stop opposition and civil society groups from holding public gatherings. For example, on October 19, police in Ndola arrested a small group of civil society and church officials during a meeting and charged them with unlawful assembly. The meeting, which took place at the Ndola Central Baptist Church, was organized by the Center for Trade Policy and Development as a public discussion about the government’s 2019 national budget. Police justified the arrests on the premise the meeting had become “political” and the group had not notified them of the gathering.
Opposition political parties complained of selective application of the Public Order Act, noting police allowed ruling party gatherings without notification. Police also prevented opposition and civil society groups planning to protest government actions from gathering on the grounds that police received notifications too late, had insufficient staff to provide security, or the gathering would coincide with government events in the same province. For example, in the lead up to the July 26 Lusaka mayoral elections, police in the district of Kanyama blocked opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema from holding a campaign rally in the area after the group had registered the event with the Electoral Commission, ostensibly because President Lungu would be visiting the area. Although police claimed inadequate staff to provide security for gatherings, police responded in force to disrupt opposition gatherings and often allowed ruling party supporters to disrupt them.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The constitution provides for freedom of association. While the government generally respected the right to freedom of association, it placed some limits on this right through various mechanisms. For example, although it generally went unenforced, the NGO Act requires all organizations to apply for registration to the registrar of societies. The registration process is stringent, long, and gives the registrar considerable discretion. The law also places restrictions on funding from foreign sources. For this reason donors, including some UN agencies, required all organizations to register under the NGO Act before receiving funding. According to the Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, uncertainties surrounding the implementation of the NGO Act and NGO policy affected the operations of civil society organizations.
Despite these restrictions the government liberally allowed civil society organizations to hold meetings in which they criticized it. For example, on March 6, the Oasis Forum, an association of civil society organizations, hosted a public discussion in Lusaka on a topic critical of the government.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Gender-based violence was a problem, and authorities failed to provide adequate physical protection. Violence against girls and women–including defilement, rape, marriages of girls under age 18, and prostitution–was a major problem affecting female asylum seekers and refugees in camps and among those residing independently, especially in urban areas. Gender inequality, economic dependence on men, and impunity of perpetrators were among the factors contributing to abuse.
In-country Movement: The government intermittently restricted freedom of internal movement. Although police generally used roadblocks to control criminal activity, enforce customs and immigration controls, check drivers’ documents, and inspect vehicles for safety compliance, there were reports police used such interventions to limit participation in political gatherings, especially during parliamentary and local government by-elections.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Refoulement: On August 8, the government forcibly returned Tendai Biti, a Zimbabwean national and senior member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, to Zimbabwe. Biti fled to Zambia and applied for asylum at the Chirundu border post in the aftermath of the July 30 Zimbabwean general elections. Despite a High Court order and UNHCR interventions for his stay, immigration authorities detained him at the border and forcibly returned him to Zimbabwe on August 9. According to government officials, Biti’s application was denied because he was running away from a “legitimate” court process in Zimbabwe.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to refugees. According to UNHCR, although the law provides for the granting of asylum, it also gives the minister of home affairs wide discretion to deport refugees without appeal. The government was responsible for conducting refugee status determinations.
Freedom of Movement: Restrictions on the right to freedom of movement by refugees within the country include the requirement for a settlement-based refugee to obtain a 60-day gate pass from a refugee officer, specifying reasons for leaving the settlement. Refugees must also carry a valid refugee card or proof of registration as proof of identity. Additionally, the degraded road conditions to the refugee settlement areas severely limited access to markets for refugees seeking a sustainable livelihood.
Employment: The law requires refugees to obtain work permits before they can engage in employment, including self-employment activities. Issuance of employment permits is subject to normal immigration procedures, including the application of a government policy that requires the immigration department to ascertain that there is no Zambian national that can perform the job.
Access to Basic Services: Although the government provided basic services, including housing and limited health-care services to refugees, the law does not accord equal access to education. The government, however, provided primary and secondary education in refugee settlements. Secondary school for refugees living in urban areas was also allowed but required a study permit and the payment of school fees.
Refugees were required to obtain government permission to move or live outside refugee camps, which was frequently granted on a temporary basis. Government policy limited refugees’ legal employment options to refugee camps, unless refugees obtained specific government authorization to work outside camps.
Durable Solutions: The government promoted the safe, voluntary return, resettlement, and local integration of refugees and stateless persons. During the year the Ministry of Home Affairs reported that the government issued residence permits to over 3,000 Angolan and Rwandan refugees and offered them land in an ongoing local integration program. A further 4,000 refugees were resettled and offered naturalization. Financial and procedural challenges, however, constrained the full integration of naturalized Angolan and Rwandan former refugees. Delayed passport issuance for both Angolans and Rwandans by their respective nations’ diplomatic and consular representatives in the country and their authorities in their capitals also kept several thousand in legal limbo.
Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees, and the recognition rate of asylum claims was high. The recourse for those rejected was appeal to the Ministry of Home Affairs. For example, in August the government provided temporary protection to Soriano Katumbi, a Congolese politician reportedly fleeing political persecution from progovernment militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Provincial and district joint operations committees are responsible for establishing the identity of asylum seekers and their reasons for leaving their country of origin. According to the Department of Immigration, the government intercepted several groups from the Horn of Africa and other parts of Africa at the border and within the country. UNHCR interceded with the director of immigration to prevent forced deportations. The last instance of forced removal occurred in 2015 involving the deportation of two Rwandan refugees by the minister of home affairs. In August the High Court quashed the deportation of the two and declared it invalid.
According to UNHCR the country has no provision for maintaining statistical information regarding stateless persons. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported there was a relatively small number of undocumented habitual residents–mainly hunters and gatherers–who have since been integrated into local rural communities following the destruction of their natural habitat due to development activities. The government is in the process of issuing them with national identity documents. UNHCR reported one case of a stateless person claiming to be South African who arrived from the DRC in 1997. The South African High Commission in Zambia refused to issue the person a passport because it could not ascertain his claim to citizenship. Subsequently, immigration authorities detained the person on several occasions for lack of documentation because his stay in the country was not yet regularized.