Reporters without Borders (RWB) have demanded for the immediate and unconditional release of incarcerated journalist Wilson Mpondamali and withdrawal of charges against him and his colleague Thomas Zgyambo.
Six days after his arrest Mr Mpondamali is still hospitalized and handcuffed on his hospital bed after collapsing in his cell at the Kabwe Central Police early this week.
Reporters without Borders in the 2013 report says the continued arrests of journalists and the oppressive approach the PF government had taken to clamp down on media institutions perceived to be critical of government was a source of great worry.
The association says it is appalled by the government’s blocking of access to Zambian Watchdog, an independent online publication and a wave of arrests and charges against journalists suspected to be collaborating with the organisation.
RWB has to that effect demanded journalist Wilson Mpondamali’s immediate and unconditional release, the withdrawal of all the charges against him and his colleague Thomas Zgyambo, and an immediate end to the censorship of the website and other news media.”
The association says that the harassment of reporters from both government and private media institutions perceived to be contributing stories to the Zambia Watchdog was a campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing President Michael Sata’s critics.
Former Daily Mail reporter Thomas Zgyambo, and Clayson Hamasaka, former head of journalism school at Evelyn Hone College, were arrested on 9th July 2013 while Mr Pondamali was picked a week ago.
“All three were arrested in connection with recent news reports on the Zambian Watchdog website, which is operated by Zambian journalists, based abroad using material supplied by anonymous correspondents inside the country. Very critical of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), it often carries reports about alleged government corruption and, as a result, is closely monitored by the authorities, ”says the report
And UPND vice president for Administration Richard Kapita said that the only thing reporters being victimized have done was providing the people with free access to independent information in a country where the State exercised a heavy control over the media.
“These recent attempts by the government to silence reporters through illegal arrests on trumped up charges represent a serious regression for Zambia and demonstrate the ruling party’s contempt for independent opinion,” said Mr Kapita
Zambia was ranked 72nd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, having risen from 86th position in 2012 and 104th 11 years ago. The recent developments will almost certainly reverse this progress.