Nchito angers journalists over Section 67 appeal

JOURNALISTS have appealed to President Edgar Lungu to reverse plans by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to appeal the case in which the High Court declared Section 67 of the Penal Code invalid.

Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) president Andrew Sakala said the action by the DPP “to resurrect a dead law” was an infringement on freedom of the press.

He said the Lusaka High Court Judge in-Charge Isaac Chali’s ruling to invalidate and expunge Section 67 of the Penal Code because it was inconsistent with Article 20 of the Constitution was done in favour of media freedom.

Mr Sakala said the media faced harassment and intimidation and that having such a ruling in favour of the media was the best ruling.

He wondered why there was a change of mind by the State to appeal the case which was already decided by the High Court.

Mr Sakala said for the courts of law to have expunged the case, then it meant that it was a hindrance to the freedom of expression and inimical to media freedom.

Lusaka High Court Judge-in-Charge  Isaac Chali last year ruled that Section 67 of the Penal Code of the Laws of Zambia was unconstitutional and illegal as it was created to suppress the freedoms of citizens.

Judge Chali said Section 67 contravened Article 20 of the Constitution and was null and void because the law was intended to forestall a danger which was both remote and uncertain.

“I find and hold that Section 67 does not fit under Article 20 (3) of the Constitution, it goes beyond what is permissible under that clause, I therefore find that section 67 does not pass the test of being reasonably justifiable in a democratic society,” Judge Chali said.

But the office of the DPP last week hinted it would appeal the High Court decision to invalidate  Section 67 in the case of Daily Nation proprietor Richard Sakala, Daily Nation production editor Simon Mwanza and Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) executive director MacDonald Chipenzi.

In December 2013, Mr Sakala and Mr Mwanza were arrested by the police and detained in connection with the story in which Mr Chipenzi advised the Zambia Police to be open and transparent in their recruitment exercise to avoid the widely held suspicion that there was a scheme to infuse militia in the service.

And in a related case, Mr Nchito entered a nolle prosequi in respect of UPND president Hakainde Hichilema but refused to do the same to Mr Sakala, Mr Chipenzi and Mr Mwanza’s case who were arrested and charged under the same law.

In June 2012, Mr Hichilema was arrested for allegedly accusing the Patriotic Front (PF) of having an arrangement with the militia in Sudan to train Zambian youths, a statement the State claimed was likely to cause fear and alarm to the public.

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