Escalating attacks on journalists worrying, as restrictions on expression continue

On 13th August 2018, Cabinet resolved to introduce a 30 Ngwee ($0.03) per day tariff on internet phone calls following an increase in its use at the expense of traditional phone calls. The Transport and Communications Minister, Mr Brian Mushimba says that the money collected would be used to improve infrastructure and create more jobs for Zambians. According to the country’s Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dora Siliya, the tariff is also meant to encourage Zambian citizens to use traditional means of making phone calls.

This move has however been criticised by human rights groups. Richard Mulonga, head of the online rights group Bloggers of Zambia said:

"We have noted that it's part of the systematic attempt by the state to stifle freedom of expression online. This is an assault to freedom of expression and association… This tariff does not promote digital inclusion, internet neutrality and affordability.”

Meanwhile, the Zambian cabinet also approved the introduction of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill to Parliament for debate. As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, the government had announced that it would be introducing new tough laws to regulate the use of social media in an alleged bid to fight cyber-crime and combat the consumption of pornography.

In a separate development, on 12th October 2018, camera person Kashete Sinyangwe of the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), who was covering the story of two suspected copper thieves was attacked at the Kitwe Magistrates' Court. The attackers, who were supporters of one of the suspects, a prominent businessman, also warned and threatened the cameraman of dire consequences if the content was aired on television as they also tried to delete the camera footage. Civil society organisation MISA Zambia issued a statement strongly condemning the attack, and the increasing attacks on media freedom and against journalists by members of the public. Highlighting an escalating pattern of attacks on journalist, MISA Zambia also mentioned in their statement another incident where journalist Raphael Mulenga of Flava FM Radio was recently beaten up by a mob in Buchi Township in Kitwe while covering a protest against the shooting of a citizen by a police officer.

Peaceful Assembly

On 5th October 2018, it was reported that a female student, Vespers Shimuzhila, died in an overnight students’ strike in Lusaka, Zambia. The fourth-year student at the university of Zambia is said to have suffocated from teargas canisters fired by police officers into the predominantly female residency. Students at the university had gone on strike to protest delayed meal and accommodation allowances.

On 8th October 2018, hundreds of students took to the streets to protest Shimuzhila's death. During the march which was dubbed #JusticeForVesters, the students were seen wearing black as they mourned the loss of their colleague.