Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
- Despite a promise by President Rupiah Banda to stop ongoing violence against journalists, independent media in Zambia continued to face legal harassment and physical intimidation in 2009.
- Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution, but the relevant language can be broadly interpreted. A new draft constitution that is currently under debate explicitly guarantees freedom of expression.
- Criminal libel laws remain in effect, and the government has stalled on passing freedom of information legislation as well as proposed laws to reform the broadcasting sector.
- The issue of media regulation remains contentious. While groups within the industry made progress toward establishing a self-regulatory body in 2009, some government officials favor statutory regulation.
- In January, the Ndola High Court banned the Post, the country’s leading independent newspaper, from covering an ongoing court case involving former president Frederick Chiluba because the paper allegedly published a “highly prejudicial” article about the proceedings.
- In July, obscenity charges were brought against Post editor Chansa Kabwela after she sent photographs of a woman giving birth in the street during a health workers’ strike to Zambia’s vice president, health minister, and other officials to highlight an ongoing health-sector crisis. Later in October, the Post’s editor in chief, Fred M’membe, faced a contempt charge after he published an editorial by a U.S.-based professor that criticized the case against Kabwela. Although the obscenity charges were dismissed in November, M’membe’s trial began in December and continued at year’s end.
- Physical harassment of Zambian journalists occurs regularly. In February, a group of 11 plainclothes police officers beat and pepper-sprayed Post photographer Abel Mambwe and detained him with reporter Mutuna Chanda after he photographed them assaulting an unlicensed taxi driver. Later that month, supporters of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy beat up Post photographer Thomas Nsama in retaliation for the paper’s reporting on the president.
- The government controls the Zambia Daily Mail and the Times of Zambia, both of which are widely circulated. Content is reviewed prior to publication, and many journalists practice self-censorship. Several privately owned newspapers like the Post operate freely, though officials use legal means to suppress criticism of the government.
- The government-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation is the primary outlet covering domestic news. Its reporting remains heavily biased in favor of the government and against the opposition. However, a growing number of private radio and television stations, including community radio stations, broadcast alongside state-owned outlets, and international services are not restricted. Some of the local private stations, including as SkyFM and Radio Phoenix, carry call-in shows on which diverse and critical viewpoints are freely expressed.
- The government does not restrict internet access, though only 6.3 percent of the population used the medium in 2009. At least one foreign national faced repercussions after posting antigovernment remarks on her blog, while another was threatened, according to the U.S. State Department.