Zambia | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Not Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Ratings Change, Trend Arrow:

Zambia’s political rights rating declined from 3 to 4, and it received a downward trend arrow, due to the restrictive environment for the opposition in the run-up to general elections, including unequal media access for opposition candidates and the use of the Public Order Act to ban opposition rallies.


Zambia is a multiparty democracy that holds regular elections. However, opposition parties face onerous legal and practical obstacles in their operations. The government regularly invokes the law to restrict freedom of expression, and peaceful demonstrations—particularly those organized by the opposition—are frequently restricted or banned.

Key Developments: 
  • President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) won a narrow victory in a presidential election held in August.
  • The opposition disputed the election’s result, but the Constitutional Court dismissed their petition on dubious procedural grounds.
  • Police frequently invoked the Public Order Act and other laws to limit opposition activities.
  • The government shut down the Post, a critical newspaper, and suspended the broadcast licenses of a number of private media outlets, particularly those that covered the opposition.
Executive Summary: 

In August, President Edgar Lungu of the PF was narrowly reelected, with 50.35 percent of the vote. The opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) disputed the result on grounds that the PF and Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) had worked together to manipulate the vote, and filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court. The court in early September dismissed the petition on procedural grounds, without holding a hearing on its merits. Lungu and his running mate, Inonge Wina, were sworn in for a full five-year term later that month. In concurrent parliamentary elections, the PF won 80 seats, followed by the UPND, which took 58.

Violence between supporters of the PF and the UPND had escalated weeks before the poll, leading to a localized 10-day ban on campaigning in July. Private media outlets that hosted opposition members were harassed, restricted, or shut down, while opposition political rallies were cancelled after authorities invoked the Public Order Act.

Just ahead of elections, newly appointed judges on the Constitutional Court ruled that 64 of Lungu’s ministers had unconstitutionally remained in office during the campaign period, allowing them improper access to government resources. 

Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 

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