Media freedom deteriorates in Zambia


International Media Support (IMS) and Article 19 released a report in January, describing a significant deterioration in the media situation since President Edgar Lungu was reelected in August 2016. The report coincides with Freedom House's findings in its 2016 Freedom of the Press report, in which Zambia was rated as 'not free.'

Local media outlets including Muvi TV, The Post newspaper, Komboni FM and Itezhitezhi radio station, have faced harassment from the authorities and some have even been forced to close. The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), which regulates broadcasting in the country, has selectively applied rules and regulations to penalise certain independent media outlets. State-run television and radio stations have, however, avoided such treatment. In addition to direct harassment, government-funded advertising has been used as a reward or motivation for media who are not perceived as opposed to the state. 

The target of The Post newspaper exemplifies the state's clampdown on independent sources of information. The Zambian police have continued to harass the paper's owner and editor in chief Fred M'membe, and The Post was forced to liquidate and end its operations in 2016. In February, the police spent almost a week outside M'membe's house and confiscated a printer. They also arrested M'membe's wife and detained her for 48 hours. The Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) has condemned the harassment of M'membe and his family stating that:

"As MISA, we are appalled by this high level of hypocrisy being exhibited by the state...In a democracy such as Zambia, the critical mass of the people should not be subjected to monolithic, biased news singing praises to the government, unleashing propaganda against channels of independent voices especially given that Zambia claims to be a model democracy in Africa."