Zambian editors charged with publishing false information

Police detained two journalists of the Daily Nation on December 12, 2013, and released them on bail the next day. Richard Sakala, owner and editor of the paper, and Simon Mwanza, the production editor, were charged with “publication of false information with intent to cause public alarm” under Section 67 of the Zambian penal code.

The arrests followed the December 10, 2013, publication of a report in the Daily Nation that cited Mcdonald Chipenzi, leader of the nonprofit organization Foundation for Democratic Process (Fodep), voicing concerns about the recruitment process for new members of the Zambian police. Chipenzi was also arrested with the journalists.

Sakala told CPJ that Chipenzi’s comments were in response to concern that a secret militia was being recruited within the police force that could be used for political purposes.

The Zambian Police Service issued a statement on December 11, 2013, in response to the article, saying it was concerned about the “malicious and unfounded article,” and that it was “unprofessional of media houses to publish false news,” which caused “fear and alarm” among the public.

The journalists denied the allegations, Sakala told CPJ. The journalists and Chipenzi had to pay bail of 10,000 Zambian kwacha (approximately US$2,000) and each had to secure “surety” from two senior government officials who would vouch for them appearing in court on the scheduled date and not fleeing the country.

Their trial is scheduled to begin in January 2014.