Zambia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Zambia

Zambia

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

64

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

24

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

21

Freedom of speech is constitutionally guaranteed, but the government often restricts this right in practice. In October, citing concerns about state security, the government rejected a proposed clause in Zambia's new constitution guaranteeing access to information. It also rejected provisions protecting media from state interference and the confidentiality of journalists' sources. The Public Order Act, among other statutes, has at times been used to harass journalists. Other tools of harassment have included criminal libel and defamation suits brought by ruling party leaders. Under Section 69 of the penal code, it is a criminal offense for any media outlet to defame the president. In November, police arrested (and later released) Fred M'membe-editor in chief of The Post, Zambia's only private daily-after accusing him of criminally defaming President Levy Mwanawasa in a series of vitriolic editorials; M'membe had been formally warned in July. In June, Anthony Mukwita was harassed by police and warned of potential sedition charges after he read a fax critical of the government during his talk show on the independent Radio Phoenix. Mukwita was later fired by the radio station's management.

In addition to fears of legal defamation suits, journalists and media workers faced threats and physical assaults at the hands of officials and ruling party supporters during the year. In April, Zambia Information Service reporter Jonathan Mukuka was beaten by police and forced to flee to Tanzania for one week because of his reporting on the release of murder and witchcraft suspects in the Nakonde district. In June, newspaper vendors selling copies of Zambia's foremost independent daily, The Post, were attacked by supporters of the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) party; the newspaper had accused high-ranking government officials, including President Mwanawasa, of shielding a colleague from prosecution on corruption charges.

The government controls two widely circulated newspapers, and the state-owned, pro-government Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation dominates the broadcast media. As a result of prepublication review at government-controlled newspapers, journalists commonly practice self-censorship. Opposition political parties and nongovernmental organizations complained of inadequate access to mass media resources. However, a group of independent newspapers widely criticize the government, and an independent radio station, Radio Phoenix, presented nongovernmental views. The government continued to prevent Breeze FM from relaying BBC broadcasts during the year. Internet access is not restricted by the government, though its use is hindered by socioeconomic conditions and only 2 percent of the population was able to regularly access it in 2005.