A Lusaka judge convicted Zambian filmmaker Chanda Chimba on November 28, 2016, of unlawful printing and publication, possession of property suspected to be proceeds of a crime, and failure to register his production company and two newspapers, according to news reports.
The charges relate to a documentary series he produced called “Stand up for Zambia,” a newspaper of the same name, and a second paper, News of Our Times, the Lusaka Times reported. The journalist was sentenced the day after his conviction to two years in prison with hard labor, and a fine of 1,000 kwacha (20 U.S. cents), according to reports.
The documentaries, which were critical of then-opposition leader Michael Sata, were aired on the state broadcaster Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation ahead of the 2011 presidential election that Sata won.
In August 2012, President Sata ordered that Chimba be arrested and questioned over the documentaries, which were uploaded to YouTube that year, according to Zambia Reports. Officers searched the journalist’s home and confiscated his laptop. He was charged the following January, according to reports. Sata died in 2014.
The charge of disposing of property relates to money Chimba allegedly paid Muvi TV to air the documentaries, and to Zambia Daily Mail, according to news reports. A security manager at Muvi TV testified that Chimba paid to have all 16 episodes broadcast by the station.
The journalist was also convicted of failing to register his company, Phibajo Production, and the newspapers Stand up for Zambia and News of Our Times with the National Archives, according to local news reports. Neither paper is currently in production.
Chimba’s co-accused, former Information Minister Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha and former Information Permanent Secretary Sam Phiri, were acquitted on charges of abuse of office, the Lusaka Times reported. The judge ruled that the prosecution failed to prove they had directed the state broadcaster to air the documentaries.
Chimba’s lawyer asked the court to take into consideration that the journalist has advanced prostate cancer and was receiving hospital treatment three times a month. The judge said he had taken note of Chimba’s illness, but that the defense had failed to present a medical report, the Zambian Observer reported.