Pre-election violence damages basic rights in Zambia

Expression

As tensions mount ahead of elections in August, the government raided and shut down the country's most widely-read private newspaper - The Post Zambia - on 21st June alleging that it had failed to comply with its tax obligations. The paper owner Fred M'membe, his wife and the Deputy Managing Editor were subsequently arrested and detained in the early hours of 28th June. On 7th July, the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) raided The Post's printers as part of further efforts to ensure the paper remained shut. Local and international civil society groups roundly criticised the shutdown as politically motivated and an obvious attempt to stifle free speech and political debate in the lead up to August 2016 elections.

Following the police killing of an opposition supporter on 8th July, the Electoral Commission in Zambia  suspended campaigning, including all public gatherings, in the capital, Lusaka. The election campaign up to this point has been marred by frequent clashes during public rallies and widespread violence involving police and individuals allied to the ruling party. Civil society reacted to the ban by claiming it was intended only to deflect attention from the low turnout at the ruling party's rallies. Civil society has also reported that their own efforts to mobilise communities and conduct voter education in the run up to August 2016 elections have been prevented by the imposition of a de facto ban on assemblies. Nevertheless, citizens led by the Law Association of Zambia are planning a protest on 19th July against political violence including violence by the police against opposition political activists and supporters.