Clayson Hamasaka, one of the journalists who were arrested in July 2013 for ostensible links to the Zambian Watchdog has been acquitted. Hamasaka was charged with trumped up charges of possessing pornographic materials.
Hamasaka and Wilson Pondamali were arrested after the PF regime tried to silence the Zambian Watchdog but could not find any evidence to link the journalists to the Watchdog.
A combined team of the regular Zambia police, the intelligence, Drug Enforcement Commission and the Zambia National Service raided Hamasaka’s house at night before arresting him on drug trafficking charges. The state later changed the indictment to sedition. A week later, the PF government changed the charge to possession of obscene material, which they claimed was on his personal laptop.
But Magistrate Obster Musukwa today dismissed the charges more than two years after the former Evelyn Hone College Head of journalism department was falsely accused.
Another journalist based in Kabwe was picked up the same time Hamasaka was arrested. Wilson Pondamali was arrested on 16 July 2013 and charged with possession of military pamphlets. Though he was granted bail, Zambian police held him in Mpima Remand Prison in Kabwe, claiming that he had attempted to escape from lawful custody. He was later charged with causing damage to government property –a police car door handle. On 22 July 2013, he collapsed in his police cell and was admitted to hospital where he was treated for pneumonia while under tight police custody, handcuffed to his hospital bed. He was later acquitted of all charges.
This prompted UK and South Africa based media assistance organizations MLDI and SALC to petition the UN and African Union.
In their petition, MLDI and SALC wrote that’ MLDI and SALC believe that the true reason for Pondamali’s arrest is a suspicion that Mr Pondamali has links with the independent news website, Zambian Watchdog. The website, which offers independent news and is often critical of the Zambian government, frequently suffers denial of service attacks, making it inaccessible to users in Zambia.