Charges on Kabwela are bogus, says CPJ

imagesThe Committee to Protect Journalists (www.cpj.org) says it is alarmed by the arrest of Zambian journalist Chansa Kabwela on bogus charges of circulating obscene materials.

Kabwela, news editor for The Post, was arrested on Monday for circulating two photographs of a woman giving birth without medical aid outside the University Teaching Hospital, which was involved in a health care worker strike at the time, the newspaper reported. On June 10, Kabwela sent the photos with a letter to the vice president, the minister of health, the cabinet secretary, the archbishop of Lusaka, and two civil society groups, urging that the strike be settled.

The photos were taken by the woman’s husband, who gave them to The Post because he believed that what happened should not happen to others, according to Sam Mujida, the paper’s deputy manager. Mujida said that editors decided the pictures were too graphic for publication but felt it important to raise awareness among government and civic leaders about the human impact of the strike. The infant died shortly after birth, according to news accounts.

“The only obscenity in this case is that a child should die outside a hospital for want of proper care,” said CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, Tom Rhodes. “The charges against Chansa Kabwela should be dropped immediately, and the ongoing harassment of her newspaper by the authorities must end.”

Kabwela, who is free on bail, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday before Chief Resident Magistrate Charles Kafunda at the Lusaka Magistrate Court. The next hearing is scheduled for August 5, Mujida said.

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