19 September 1997


Army officers harass journalists, confiscate camera

Incident details

Dickson Jere, Reuben Phiri, George Chilembo, Amos Malupenga



(MISA/IFEX) - On 8 September 1997, four journalists with the privately owned
newspaper "The Post" were harassed and had their camera seized by Zambia Air
Force (ZAF) personnel at Lusaka City Airport, reports the Zambia Independent
Media Association (ZAMA/MISA-Zambia). The journalists, Dickson Jere, Reuben
Phiri, George Chilembo and Amos Malupenga, along with other journalists from
the state-owned media, were covering the departure to London of a
traditional Chief Litunga of Barotseland. "The Post" journalists were
singled out and accused of entering airport premises "illegally".

Jere told ZIMA that Miriam Nganga Wina, senior member of the ruling party,
and her colleagues were particularly hostile to "The Post" journalists at
the airport. "They told us that they did not like journalists from `The
Post' and we were ordered to leave. As we prepared to leave, our
photographer took a picture of a charging official and this is what sparked
off the trouble," Jere said. A siren was sounded and security officers
rounded them up at gun point and took them to ZAF public relations officer
Lieutenant Colonel Chrispin Mukumano. Mukumano asked the journalists to
identify themselves before confiscating their camera. When journalists
inquired about the camera later on 9 September, Mukumano told them: "The
matter was in the hands of the police and the journalists were likely to
face criminal charges. "Mukumano, however, claimed journalists had entered
the airport illegally. "The other journalists (from the state media)
submitted their names for clearance and as far as we were concerned, they
were the only journalists present. I only knew about the journalists from
`The Post' when one of them took photographs of Chief Litunga's luggage
being loaded on the plane.

Since they wanted to hide, let the law take its course," Mukumano told ZIMA.
Although Mukumano said the journalists' case and camera had been handed over
to police, a police spokesperson, Standwell Lungu, claimed that he knew
nothing about the matter. By 18 September, Lungu had still not delivered the
results of his investigation.
"The Post" editor-in-chief Fred M'membe told ZIMA that his journalists "did
not gate crash" into the airport but were merely pursuing a matter of public
interest. "They did not need to be invited to report on a public occasion.
The state media was there and Lusaka City Airport is open to the public on
public occasions," he said. "This is just harassment; people don't like what
`The Post' is doing." ZIMA chairman David Simpson said in a statement on 9
September that he condemned the attack against the journalists as "political
thuggery." Simpson advised the people concerned, including Miriam Nganga
Wina, that they should have answered the queries about Chief Litunga's trip
"to the satisfaction of the taxpayers and the general public".


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