The independent daily The Post continues to draw most of the fire from the authorities and ruling party activists. The situation got even tougher after the new president took office.
The tone was quickly set after the December 2001 presidential election, which resulted in Vice-President Levy Mwanawasa succeeding Frederick Chiluba as president. Just days after his inauguration on 2 January 2002, the new president issued a warning to news media about publishing false information or information likely promote disorder. At the same time, the Zambia Independent Media Association (ZIMA) protested against the state-owned news media’s refusal to cover opposition activities. Two months after taking office, President Mwanawasa fired information minister Vernon Mwaanga, who was considered too close to former President Chiluba.
Any hint of independence in the state-owned news media was quashed. This was the case when all of the editorial staff of the government daily The Times of Zambia went on strike on 14 March, refusing to go back to work until the government replaced the newspaper’s management and improved work conditions. The next day, soldiers went to the homes of the strikers, escorted them to their offices and made them return to work. The management announced sanctions against those who started the strike.
Fred M’membe and Bivan Saluseki of the independent daily The Post and two opposition deputies were acquitted by a Lusaka court on 12 July of defaming former President Chiluba. Citing the national interest, the state abandoned the case. The two journalists had faced three-year prison sentences after being detained in August 2001 because of an editorial entitled "A thief for president" in which Chiluba was accused of diverting government funds for his personal use.
Press legislation became a matter of contention between government and opposition in the autumn. Oppositions parliamentarians fired the first shots in early October by tabling three draft laws on freedom of information and broadcasting. The government responded that it would not let anyone act in its stead and three weeks later presented its own draft laws to the national assembly. After consulting with the news media and non-governmental organisations, parliamentarians passed the freedom of information law unanimously on 6 December. This law facilitates access to official information.
Four journalists imprisoned
Emmanuel Chilekwa, publisher of the privately-owned weekly The People, and three of his staff - deputy editor in chief Shaderick Banda, reporter Kinsley Lwendo and trainee Jean Chirwa - were arrested on 5 June 2002 for reporting that President Mwanawasa had Parkinson’s disease. The next day, the Lusaka court ordered them held pending trial, refusing to release them on bail. This came after the president had threatened that anyone who said he was ill would be arrested. The four journalists were finally freed on bail of 6 million kwachas (about 1,400 euros) on 27 June. They presented their excuses to the president on 30 July and charges were dropped.
Two journalists detained
Fred M’membe, editor of the privately-owned daily The Post, was detained for several hours on 11 February 2002 because of a report quoting an opposition parliamentarian as having called President Mwanawasa a "cabbage." He was released on bail. The parliamentarian, Dipak Patel, was also detained by police for several hours. The Post called its editor’s arrest an act of intimidation typical of a corrupt regime that evaded the truth. After Patel gave a public apology, the police announced that the matter was being dropped.
Masautso Phiri, editor of the weekly Today, was arrested and then released on bail on 10 June after running a report claiming that the police were bribed in a criminal case.
(Two journalists attacked
Thomas Nsama, a photographer with The Post, was hit by members of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) on 24 February in Lusaka when he took photographs of them moving cars off the road to make way for former President Chiluba’s motorcade. Nsama said police present did not intervene when he was being hit.
Freelance photographer Henry Salim was injured by stones being thrown during a clash between ruling party activists and members of an opposition party outside the supreme court in Lusaka on 16 September.
Pressure and obstruction
The national assembly announced on 24 January 2002 that the election of its speaker the next day would take place behind closed doors and that the press would not be allowed to attend. No explanation was given
Multimedia Zambia, an industrial complex that houses the offices of the weekly National Mirror, and Multichoice Zambia, a satellite TV access provider, received anonymous calls at the same time on 7 February warning that a bomb was about to go off in their premises. Personnel had to evacuate their offices for several hours until it was established that there was no bomb.
Jerry Nkwendeenda, a journalist with a community radio station in Mazabuka (south of the capital) was detained for an hour on 14 February by three policemen when he was investigating a suspicious sale of food to police officers by a food retailer.
A radio technician at the state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) took an anonymous call on 19 February claiming that a bomb had been planted in the building. Police who inspected the building found no bomb.
Young activists of the ruling MMD seized copies of privately-owned newspapers being sold on the streets and attacked vendors on 7 June in Lusaka. Some vendors had to be hospitalised. The day before, MMD supporters had reminded newspaper editors that they were not allowed to carry reports defaming the president.
An explosion destroyed part of the perimeter wall around the home of The Post editor Fred M’membe on 1 August. Giving preliminary findings a week later, police said there was no explosion and that the wall just collapsed because of humidity and poor construction material. M’membe’s lawyer responded that the police had questioned no one, not even M’membe’s neighbours, who had said they heard an explosion. The next day, a senior information ministry official insisted that the authorities wanted to identify who was responsible. He also said the authorities backed the news media and their fight "to clean up society and combat corruption."
Happy Kabwe, a journalist with The Post, was banned from attending a meeting of the cabinet on 23 August although reporters with the state-owned news media were allowed in. No explanation was given.
Kabanda Chulu, a journalist with the privately-owned newspaper The Monitor, was ejected from Arrakan barracks in Lusaka on 11 September when he went there to cover a military ceremony. Journalists from other news media were allowed to attend.