Zambia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Zambia

Zambia

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

65

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

25

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

20

Freedom of speech is constitutionally guaranteed, but the government often restricts this right in practice. The Public Order Act, among other statutes, has at times been used to harass journalists. Other tools of harassment have included criminal libel suits and defamation suits brought by ruling party leaders in response to stories on corruption; several such cases were brought against journalists in 2004. In December, the country's high court issued a ruling applauded by the private media and press freedom groups that validated the autonomy of the Independent Broadcasting Authority. That body was created by the parliament to license and regulate broadcast institutions, but in a bid to retain control over applications for radio and television licenses, President Levy Mwanawasa established a cabinet committee for the same purpose. A bill to expand the right of access to information and liberalize the broadcasting sector was abruptly withdrawn in November 2002 by Vice President Enoch Kavindele, who cited global security concerns after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

In 2004, independent media continued to criticize the government. However, the government heightened its crackdown on dissent ahead of national elections scheduled for 2006, including the arrest of the editor in chief of Zambia's only independent newspaper and the closing of a private radio station. Reporters continued to face threats and physical assaults at the hands of police and ruling party supporters, and newspaper vendors who sell critical publications were also attacked during the year. In May, the government attempted to expel a columnist for the independent daily The Post, announcing his deportation order on state television. The reporter, a British citizen with permanent residency in Zambia, had written a satirical article that officials characterized as insulting to the president. A court eventually annulled the deportation order as unconstitutional.

The state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation currently dominates broadcasting, although an independent radio station, Radio Phoenix, presents nongovernmental views. Most private broadcast media avoid political coverage. In May, authorities ordered the private radio station Breeze FM to cease relaying BBC broadcasts. Coverage at state-owned media outlets is generally supportive of the government, and opposition political parties and nongovernmental organizations complained of inadequate access to mass media resources. As a result of prepublication review at government-controlled newspapers, journalists commonly practice self-censorship. The government does not restrict Internet access.