THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should not abuse his office to intimidate the media by trying to appeal the recent High Court ruling that found Section 67 of the Penal Code unconstitutional, says MISA Zambia chairperson Hellen Mwale.
Ms Mwale said the scrapping of Section 67 which talks about publishing false information with intent to cause alarm was because it contravened freedom of speech and restoring it would amount to criminalizing freedom of expression which was a fundamental human right.
She appealed to President Lungu to intervene into the matter to ensure the freedom of the press was exercised.
Ms Mwale also appealed to the Supreme Court not to tolerate such constitutional abuses.
“We get concerned as a media institution because this law will be used to suppress freedom of expression and to persecute journalists at any cost,” she said.
Ms Mwale said MISA expected the DPP to support the decision by the High Court to scrap off Section 67 and encourage the court to repeal or amend other constitutional clauses that suppress media freedom.
Ms Mwale said MISA had for years worked to promote the freedom of expression and access to information throughout Southern Africa.
She said MISA would remain committed to fighting for a safe environment for the media.
“It was relieving to note that the High Court of Zambia found Section 67 not to have passed the test of being reasonably justified in a democratic society. We wonder why the DPP wants to reverse the court’s decision.
“MISA has been advocating the removal of such oppressive provisions in the Penal Code because they hindered freedom of expression which was guaranteed in the Zambian Constitution,” Ms Mwale said.
Ms Mwale said she was shocked at the unprecedented levels of hostility against journalists in Zambia through the use of State machinery.
Ms Mwale said all citizens should be allowed to participate in national affairs and be free to express themselves, assemble and associate among themselves.
She said it was retrogressive for the DPP to appeal the High Court ruling on scrapping of Section 67.
Last year, Lusaka High Court Judge-in-Charge Isaac Chali 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.
But the office of the DPP has hinted it would appeal the High Court’s 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.
However, the DPP decided to enter a nolle prosequi in respect of UPND president Hakainde Hichilema, citing the scrapping of Section 67.
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.