Reporter Without Borders condemns the arrest and detention of Richard Sakala and Simon Mwanza, respectively managing editor and production editor of the only opposition newspaper The Daily Nation, often critical of the government.
The arrest of the two journalists on 10 December was linked to the publication of an interview with MacDonald Chipenzi, a former journalist and director of the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP), in which he questions the reasons for a change in the police recruitment process in Zambia.
“The arrest and imprisonment of these journalists is entirely unjustified,” the press freedom organization said. “If the police wish to take issue with the allegations published by the Daily Nation, other means of redress exist and they have already taken the step of publishing a denial.”
“Once again, the Zambian government has taken heavy-handed action. It is using the argument of national security to muzzle the only opposition newspaper. We urge that the journalists be released and the allegations against them dropped.”
Chipenzi and the two journalists have been accused of publishing false news and causing alarm. They appeared in court after two days in custody and were granted bail of 10,000 kwacha (just over 1,300 euros). Their release was conditional on them finding two people employed by the government or a para- governmental organization to act as guarantors. Since they were unable to meet this condition, the three remain in prison. Their trial is due to open on 26 January.
The Zambian police are categorized by Transparency International as the most corrupt department of the government.
Zambia is 72nd of 179 countries in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.