Zambian Government Lashes Out at The Post

March 10, 1999

His Excellency President Frederick Chiluba
State House
Independence Avenue
Lusaka, Zambia

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) writes to strongly condemn the arrests of Ms. Lubasi Mwangala Katundu, Joe Kaunda, Goodson Machona, Amos Malupenga, Brighton Phiri, and Kelvin Shimo, reporters for the independent daily newspaper The Post, and the current siege of the newspaper’s editorial offices and its printing press, where editor in chief, Fred M’membe, and reporters Dickson Jere, Sam Mujuda, and Arthur Simochoba face imminent arrest.

At 8:30 p.m. on March 9, three police officers arrested Katundu at her Blaston Park residence and transported her to the Woodlands Police Station in Lusaka, where she was held in a corridor which separates two cells for male prisoners. At 10:00 p.m., four plainclothes Zambian police arrived in unmarked vehicles at Shimo’s residence in the Avondale section of Lusaka, arrested the journalist, and transported him to the Woodlands Police Station. At 11:30 p.m., Kaunda was arrested at his residence in the Chilenje section of Lusaka and transported to a local police station. Later that evening, police began roving throughout the city in search of the newspaper’s editorial staff, following an apparent order to arrest them all before dawn. By March 10, police had also arrested Malupenga and Phiri. The arrests were ordered by Defense Minister Chitalu Sampa in retaliation for the March 9 edition’s lead story, titled “Angola Worries Zambia Army, ZAF.” The article reported that unidentified senior Zambia Army and Zambia Air Force (ZAF) officers believe that Zambia could not withstand a military attack by Angola. The six journalists have not been charged with a crime, and the newspaper’s lawyers have filed a habeus corpus application with the Lusaka High Court.

The article was part of The Post‘s coverage of the Angolan government’s recent accusations that Zambian officials are supplying arms to Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebel forces, and that there are links between high-ranking officials, including Zambian Vice President Chris Ontembo, Energy Minister Benny Mwila, and President Chiluba’s son, Tito Chiluba, and UNITA. The Post has reported the Angolan government’s accusations, as well as the Zambian military’s consistent denials about arms trading with UNITA.

As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ strongly protests the arrests of Katundu, Shimo, Kaunda, Malupenga, Phiri, and Machona. Their arrests, in reprisal for their journalistic work, violate journalists’ rights to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 9 of the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights, to all of which we respectfully remind Your Excellency, the Republic of Zambia is a signatory.

CPJ strongly urges Your Excellency to ensure that the six Post reporters‹Katundu, Shimo, Kaunda, Malupenga, Phiri, and Machona‹are released unconditionally, that the siege of the newspaper’s editorial and printing offices ceases immediately, and that you ensure the safety of those Post staffers who are being held inside the buildings. We ask that you ensure journalists’ right to report the news freely and without reprisal.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We welcome your comments.


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Zambia

Send a letter to:

His Excellency President Frederick Chiluba
State House
Independence Avenue
Lusaka, ZAMBIA
Fax: 011-260-1-221939

Click Here to Read a Statement by Fred M’membe,
Editor in Chief of The Post