The Bloggers of Zambia expresses concern with the continued arrests and violation of media rights in Zambia, especially the recent arrest and detention of Agence France Press (AFP) Photographer Salim Dawood in Lusaka.
Mr Dawood was performing his functions as a journalist and taking photographs of a Zesco power station but he was arrested, detained but later released after paying an admission of guilty fine.
Zambia’s outdated penal code allows for the continued infringement of personal freedoms and the ability of journalists to undertake their fundamental role of providing the public with factual information and allowing informed dialogue on governance and development issues.
We condemn the police action of arresting the photographer as it falls short of respecting and protecting the work of journalists. The wanton arrest and subsequent detention of Mr Dawood exemplifies how risky the media landscape has become in Zambia. This is because institutions of governance such as the police who must serve and protect freedom of expression and media rights are in the forefront of assaulting the media in the country.
Our organisation is concerned that the continued harassment of journalists when gathering, processing and publishing news amounts to abuse of human rights and a hindrance to the media role of informing and educating citizens.
We demand for a comprehensive law reform process that will see abusive and draconian pieces of legislation repealed with the view to harmonise all the other laws and make journalism safe and guaranteeing freedom of expression.
Currently, journalism is criminalised by many laws, including the Penal Code Cap 87 of the Laws of Zambia, the Public Order Act and others. Safety of journalists must be guaranteed as it forms part of both local and international human rights standards.
We call upon all journalists, bloggers and activists to demand for their right to freedom of expression and access to information. It is only when journalists enjoy freedom to do their work that citizens can be able to hold power to account and demand for transparency and accountability.
Blogger of Zambia