Zambia: Zambian NGO 'appalled' by newspaper closure

Lusaka, Zambia (PANA) - The Oasis Forum, a Zambian non-governmental organisation, says it is not only appalled but also greatly saddened by events surrounding the closure of the offices of The Post Newspaper.

The forum said that the closure borders on infringement of the freedom of the press and expression, especially that Zambia would be holding its general elections on 11 August and the fact that the electorate needed to make some informed decisions based on a wide array of information.

Oasis Forum comprises the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ), the Non-Governmental Coordinating Council (NGOCC) and the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC),

“We strongly believe that the closure of The Post does not augur well with our democratic dispensation. If anything, it is making an already volatile political climate more polarized,” Oasis Forum chairperson Father Cleophas Lungu stated on Thursday.

Zambia’s leading independent Post Newspaper was closed on 21 June by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) over tax arrears amounting to K53 million. (1UU$=K10).

But the Oasis Forum on Thursday observed that this incident and the questionable conduct of both ZRA and the Zambia Police were other manifestations of a serious breakdown of the rule of law and widespread lawlessness in the country.

“Indeed, if a public authority can have the audacity of ignoring a validly issued and legally binding court order, then we cannot but wonder as to where this country is heading. Again, if the law enforcement agencies cannot be seen to fairly, equally, consistently, reasonably and professionally execute their mandate in view of protecting citizens, we wonder as to whom those who feel threatened should run to,” Father Lungu said.

“Furthermore, if it is true that the ZRA were not collecting the huge and much publicized taxes from the Post Newspaper since 2009, then heads must roll in their rank and file due to their appalling incompetence and neglect.”

In addition, the Oasis Forum also registered its deep concern and disgust over the brutal conduct of the officers in uniform as well as suspected cadres who arrested the
newspaper's Managing Editor Fred M’membe, his wife Mutinta and his deputy managing editor Joseph Mwenda.

The Oasis Forum said it was fully aware of the implications of avoiding or evading tax and that no legal excuse could be given for individuals and institutions who refused to pay tax, but that the physical violence unleashed upon the trio was totally uncalled for and must be condemned in the strongest terms.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible any form of intimidation and suppression of the independent press, which is a key stakeholder in any democratic country that does not only preach but puts into practice the dictates of good governance,” Father Lungu added.
-0- PANA MM/MA 30June2016

30 june 2016 09:09:36

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