On Thursday, 21 June 2012, members of the Zambia Police Service detained two journalists from privately-owned Muvi TV reporter and the state-owned Times of Zambia newspaper. The two had gone to investigate allegations of the torture of a suspect accused of being involved in one of the largest ivory theft scandals in Zambia’s Chilanga area, near Lusaka.
According to the Muvi TV journalist, Bruce Mwale, who is a court reporter, the tip-off came to him while on duty and he decided to rush to Chilanga to investigate the story and put it on tape. The alleged victim had been detained at a police post in Linda within Chilanga.
“I positioned myself across the road on which the police post is situated and started filming when the suspect was being brought out of the post in Linda to be taken to Chilanga Police Station. However, one police officer noticed me and came over.” Mwale told the Zambia Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zambia) on Friday, 29 June 2012.
He added: “I was eventually requested to accompany the police to Chilanga Police Station where we had a back and forth argument regarding a request for me to erase the material I had captured. They wanted me to erase the footage of the tortured victim.”
Mwale said that he was detained together with the Times of Zambia journalist for about two hours within the police premises and during which time the officers at the station were trying to consult their superiors on how to handle the matter of the footage captured by Mwale.
He said that he was asked to erase the material but would not oblige to their request and was later released while his camera remained at the police station.
“I received a call two days later on Saturday (23 June 2012) informing me that I could go and pick up my camera and we discovered that the camera had no footage which I had captured,” Mwale said.
MISA-Zambia has raised concern over this incident and has since written the Inspector General of Police to seek a way forward. However, the Inspector General of Police was not available to meet MISA-Zambia on Friday, 29 June 2012 as she was said to be away on official duty.
MISA-Zambia chairperson, Daniel Sikazwe has observed that so far, the Chapter has recorded three cases in which the police have harassed journalists, describing this as a “worrisome trend”.
This article was originally published on Police detain two journalists, erase footage