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Zambian police charge editors critical of government

June 28, 2016

Zambian police have charged three people including two editors of a newspaper critical of the government shut down last week. Tensions are rising ahead of elections in August.

Sambia Zeitung The Post - Joan Chirwa-Ngoma & Mukosha Funga
Zambian Newspaper "The Post" managing editor Joan Chirwa-Ngoma (L) and reporter Mukosha Funga (R) are led to detention at Lusaka Central Police on April 12.Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Salim

The Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) decided to close down "The Post" newspaper last week. It also demanded $6 million in unpaid taxes from the paper, which was set up in 1991 and has been critical of the government.

"The Post"'s managing editor Joan Chirwa said police had arrested editor-in-chief Fred M'membe, his wife Mutinta and deputy managing editor Joseph Mwenda.

Zambian president, Edgar Chagwa Lungu
Image: Getty Images/AFP/S. Dawood

"This was after the trio gained entry into the Post newspaper's head office in Rhodespark following a stay granted by the court restraining ZRA from seizing the newspaper's property," Chirwa said.

Tax officials did not comment, although Zambian President Edgar Lungu has come out in support of the ZRA's action.

Police spokesman Rae Hamoonga said the three have been charged and released on bail and will appear in court next week to face charges of breaking and entry.

Clamping down

The newspaper in turn has accused the government of trying to silence it, while the opposition accused the government of using repressive laws to restrict its campaigns.

Zambia's "Mother of Millions"

"Fred M'membe and his newspaper are victims of an attempt by the state to silence critical media and those who speak truth to power," said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's director for southern Africa.

The United States on Monday urged authorities to allow "The Post" to reopen.

Lungu has been in power for just over 12 months after winning a ballot following the death of Michael Sata in October 2014. In this year's election he faces a challenge from opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development.

jbh/kl (Reuters, AFP)

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