15 January 1998


Journalists and human rights activists summoned to court

Incident details

Fred M'membe, Reuben Phiri


legal action

(MISA/IFEX) - On 13 January 1998 the Zambian High Court issued an order
summoning "The Post" newspaper's editor-in-chief, Fred M'membe, and senior
reporter Reuben Phiri, as well as two human rights activists, for alleged
contempt of court. No date has been fixed yet for their appearance.

**For related cases, see IFEX alerts of 13 and 6 January 1998**

The order to appear followed a complaint to the court by the country's
Attorney General Bonaventure Mutale. The Attorney General complained that
Zambia Civic Education Association (ZCEA) chairperson Lucy Sichone and
Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) president Alfred Zulu had made
derogatory remarks on the detention of former President Kenneth Kaunda, a
matter which is currently being challenged in the Lusaka High Court. Zulu
and Sichone were quoted in the story, denouncing Kaunda's restriction
grounds as "cheap and shallow" and "unbelievable." Mutale wanted the
reporter and the editor of "The Post" summoned for writing and publishing
the remarks, which appeared in the paper's edition of 13 January. Judge
Mutale agreed that the "Post" articles violated his directive of 10 January
against people commenting on the on going habeas corpus case and demanded
that the four appear before him. (See IFEX alerts for recent related cases)

M'membe confirmed to the Zambia Independent Media Association (ZIMA) on 14
January that he has been summoned, but he has promised to stand by his
decision to publish the article. He said he would defend himeself. "I won't
seek legal representation. If they want, they should lock me up....I believe
what Sichone and Alfred (Zulu) said.....even Kaunda said it in court, that the
grounds are useless".

In the restriction grounds, the state alleges that Kaunda, detained Zambia
Democratic Congress (ZDC) president Dean Mung'omba and self exiled Liberal
Progressive Front (LPF) chairman Roger Chongwe conspired with and financed
the army officers who allegedly led the abortive 28 October coup to
overthrow the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) government.

One of Kaunda's lawyers later complained that a story published in the
state-owned "Sunday Times" on 11 January which was headlined "Kaunda
Charged" and sub-titled "KK, Chongwe and Mung'omba plotted coup" was also
prejudicial to the on-going habeas corpus case. However, Judge Mutale said
he would rule on this application after studying it closely.


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