Community radio station director attacked by police
On 5th October, Lesa Kasoma Nyirenda the director of Komboni Radio, a community station, was brutally beaten and stripped naked by police who accused her of assaulting them and resisting arrest. After the radio station's broadcasting license was suspended by the authorities, the police had been onsite to ensure the station stayed off the airwaves. Despite the fact that the ban had been lifted and their broadcasting license reinstated, the police had remained on the premises to intimidate the station's staff. The altercation began when Nyirenda asked the police to leave the property. Following her assault, Nyirenda expressed fear for herself and family but insisted she would stay in Zambia and vowed to continue working for her country.
ZAMBIA is no longer a safe place to live in and I fear for my life, Komboni Radio director Lesa Kasoma Nyirenda... https://t.co/QISgEHBAkp— Open Zambia (@OpenZambia) October 10, 2016
Also in October, the police in Lusaka warned and cautioned Gerald Shawa, owner of Prime TV, and its head of news Makokwa Kozi for 'communication of certain information' contrary to the State Security Act. This action was taken after the TV station had broadcast a letter from the police in which they asked the TV station to hand over footage from an opposition party's press briefing. Local rights group, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA - Zambia) condemned the police's 'vexatious' actions and said it reflects the increasing intolerance of Lungu's government.
On 2nd November, it was reported that The Post newspaper, which was shut by the government in June, was facing liquidation over failure to pay its creditors. Owner Fred M'membe challenged the High Court liquidation process as corrupt, insisting that this was government's way of silencing independent media in the country. In a statement, Mr M'membe stated:
'President Lungu and his government have continued their crusade to shut down all independent media houses by their attempt to liquidate Post Newspapers Limited using their surrogates. This does not surprise us, although it saddens us, because of its impact on our democracy and on the thousands of people whose livelihood has been taken away by this crusade to shut down the newspaper.'
On 21st October, Chief Government Spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili launched a verbal attack against local civil society platform the Oasis Forum, stating that it had become discredited and politically inclined. He alleged that it had a regime change agenda and that it was influenced by external funders. The Oasis Forum includes civil society, religious bodies, the legal profession and others who have come together to address issues relating to fundamental rights and freedoms in Zambia. Kambwili's comments followed the Oasis Forum's criticism of President Edgar Lungu's establishment of a commission of enquiry into pre-election violence this year. In opposing this decision, the Forum argued that since the cause of the violence was known the President should devote resources towards addressing those causes, rather than wasting time and money on a commission of enquiry.
On 5th October, Zambia's main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and his deputy, Geoffrey Mwamba were arrested and charged with 'seditious practices and unlawful assembly.' The alleged unlawful assembly took place on the 26th of September in Zambia's Copperbelt Province. Sixty-one members of the party were also arrested for protesting against their leader's arrest. They were charged with 'conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace.' These latest targetted arrests mark a trend which is continuing months after it began during elections in August.
Civic Space Developments