Journalists in soup for ‘alarming’ public

On 11 March 2006, two journalists working for Chikuni community radio station, a catholic-owned radio station in Monze district of the Southern Province about 250 kilometers south of the capital Lusaka, were arrested and charged with “publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public” in violation of Section 67 of the Penal code of the laws of Zambia. The duo, Matongo Maumbi and Jyde Hamoonga, were arrested for facilitating the broadcast of an announcement on the radio station in which relatives of a deceased five year-old boy, who had been missing for over a week before being found dead on 3 March 2006, with some body parts missing, called on members of the community to meet and discuss an appropriate response to the suspected ritual murder. The calling of the meeting followed a live radio phone-in discussion programme hosted by the station in which the issue of the alleged ritual murder was discussed. A riot ensued after the meeting. Chikuni Radio Station Director Fr. Tadeusz Swiderski told the media watchdog Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia that the two journalists were detained overnight last week at Monze police station and later released on police bond of K1 million ( about US$300) each. They were to appear before Monze resident magistrate. MISA Zambia has condemned the arrest of the journalists. In a statement released on 12 March 2006, MISA Zambia Vice-Chairperson, Patricia Mwase, said: “The arrest, detention and charging of the two community radio staffers is a gross violation of their right to freedom of expression and an infringement of their right to practice their profession without interference.” Mwase accused the police of victimising the two. Meanwhile, Radio Chikuni has asked MISA Zambia to provide a lawyer to Defend Maumbi and Hamoonga.

March 2006
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