Zambia’s “The Post” editors arrested following closure of newspaper

“Political leaders must know that this decision to close the Post newspaper, in addition to political violence, restriction of fundamental freedoms of association, expression and movement undermines the holding of a free, fair and peaceful election, scheduled for August 2016.”

MISA Zambia is alarmed by the arrest of Post newspaper Editor-in-Chief, Fred M’membe, his wife Mutinta and Post Deputy Managing Editor, Joseph Mwenda for attempting to access their office premises following an ex-parté order staying execution of the Zambia Revenue Authority’s (ZRA) warrant of distress issued on June 21st, 2016.

The arrest is proof that the action by the state is politically motivated and only aimed at crippling the newspaper.

It is saddening that the police – who are charged with the duty of upholding law and order – decided to defy a legitimate order of the court.

State institutions – including the Zambia Police and Zambia Revenue Authority – must not allow themselves to be used to achieve petty political aims, but must act in a fair and reasonable manner.

It is clear that the matter is worsening by the day because of the refusal by the ZRA and other institutions to treat the Post newspaper fairly, like they would any other tax payer or media house in Zambia.

We demand that the paper be treated in a non-discriminatory manner in the interest of media freedom and the media’s continued duty to provide a platform for open debate and exchange of ideas, even those deemed to be critical and dissenting.

We strongly appeal to His Excellency, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, to immediately intervene in the matter if he really believes in the freedom of the press and democracy.

President Lungu stated at his press briefing on May 13th, 2016 that he would ensure that the media operate independently and without any interference or censorship from the state.

It is our belief, therefore, that if President Lungu really meant this statement, the situation with the Post would have been amicably settled by now.

We call on the Inspector General of Police, Kakoma Kanganja and the police command to immediately and unconditionally release Fred M’membe, his wife Mutinta and the Post Deputy Managing Editor, Joseph Mwenda.

The attempts to muzzle the press in Zambia using force will not succeed. These actions are reflecting badly on the current leadership with their character currently under question internationally.

Political leaders must know that this decision to close the Post newspaper, in addition to political violence, restriction of fundamental freedoms of association, expression and movement undermines the holding of a free, fair and peaceful election, scheduled for August 2016.

This article was originally published on Zambia’s “The Post” editors arrested following closure of newspaper