Zambia groups say freedom of expression under threat

Thirteen civil society organizations in Zambia have expressed concern at what they describe as the "shrinking space for freedom of expression and assembly in the country".

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Thirteen civil society organizations in Zambia have expressed concern at what they describe as the “shrinking space for freedom of expression and assembly in the country”.

In a joint statement, the organizations say there is a “growing intolerance for dissent”.

The statement cites a number of violations, including the forcible arrest on Wednesday of vocal opposition figure Sean Tembo, who had his house broken into by police officers.

The statement says despite President Hakainde Hichilema repeatedly expressing commitment to safeguarding human rights and the rule of law, they are taken aback by some actions coming from his appointees.

“Recently, we have observed worrying trends with the failure by public authorities to protect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, which are the bedrock of our democracy,” the 13 organizations say.

The statement adds that in June this year, the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail fired a photojournalist for photographing people queuing up for maize meal, which is used to prepare the country’s staple food, nshima.

The statement also lists the cautioning of a privately owned radio station after it hosted Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa, a critical Zambian academic.

“These incidents show a growing intolerance for dissent and have the potential to plunge the country into the abyss of demagoguery and political repression by the government,” the statement adds.

The government has not responded but has previously said the president respects human rights and does not interfere in the operations of the police.

Among the organizations that signed the statement were Transparency International Zambia, Action Aid and the Panos Institute Southern Africa.

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