Zambia: Zambian lawyers condemn arrest of Post newspaper bosses

Lusaka, Zambia (PANA) – The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) says it is alarmed by the "brutal manner" in which the Zambian Police Service on Tuesday arrested and beat up the Post newspaper Managing Editor Fred M'membe, his wife Mutinta and Post editor Joseph Mwenda.

The newspaper on Monday obtained a court order restraining the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) from seizing the newspaper’s property over tax arrears it owes.

However, police in Lusaka early on Tuesday arrested the trio after they gained entry to the newspaper's Head Office in Lusaka.

Armed police officers "brutally beat up" the three people before bundling them in a police van, the lawyer said. Post newspaper lawyer, Nchima Nchito, was also said to have been beaten when he tried to reason with police when they were beating up the trio.

M'membe, his wife and Mwenda are currently detained at Lusaka Central Police. No charge has been laid against them.

ZRA last Tuesday closed down the newspaper in a bid to recover about K53 million tax in arrears. (US$=K10). But the Revenue Appeals Tribunal on Monday ordered the release of the newspaper's items that were seized by ZRA on 21 June.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, LAZ president Linda Kasonde condemned the police for the brutality used in arresting the trio and also the way they manhandled the newspaper's newspaper lawyers, Nchima Nchito and Chisuwo Hamwela.

The two lawyers were present to enforce the order by the Revenue Appeals Tribunal dated 27 June 2016 ordering the release of the items that were seized from the Post by ZRA on 21 June.

LAZ said the manner in which ZRA and the law enforcement had gone after the Post newspaper appeared to give credence to the argument by the newspaper that the actions were politically motivated.

“We cannot comment on the merits of the matter that is still in court. The fact that the law enforcement agencies disregarded a legally binding order clearly suggests that the decision to close the newspaper was made in bad faith,” Kasonde said.

Meanwhile, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) - Zambia has demanded the immediate and unconditional release of M’membe, his wife and Post Editor.

In a statement, MISA-Zambia President Helen Mwale, said the arrest of the staff of the newspaper, despite being in possession of a court order, proved that it was being politically victimized.

MISA called on President Edgar Lungu to immediately intervene in the matter if he really believed in the freedom of the press and democracy.

“The attempts to muzzle the press in Zambia using force will not succeed as this has already reflected badly on the current leadership with their character currently under question internationally.

“Political leaders must know that this decision to close the Post newspaper, in addition to political violence, restriction of fundamental freedoms of association, expression and movement, undermines the holding of a free, fair and peaceful election,” Mwale said.

She said it was sad to note that in a country that boasted about being democratic, law enforcement agencies were being used to break the law and disobey court orders.
-0- PANA MM/MA 28June2016

28 june 2016 15:54:14

xhtml CSS