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Four Journalists Arrested in Zambia

March 10, 1999

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) _ Police arrested four journalists after their newspaper reported flaws in Zambia’s defense capability, their editor said Wednesday.

The journalists were arrested in raids on their homes overnight and police sealed off the house of another who refused to leave, said Fred M’membe, chief editor of the independent daily Post newspaper. A sixth was not home when police came for him.

M’membe described the arrest of Post journalists Kelvin Shimo, Joe Kaunda, Amos Malumpenga and Brighton Phiri as ``barbaric.″

In its Tuesday edition, The Post quoted unnamed senior military officers as criticizing Zambia’s ability to defend itself, saying it would not withstand an attack by the far superior army of neighboring Angola. The report detailed equipment and mobility problems.

``I am responsible for what is published by the Post and it was indeed my decision to publish the Tuesday lead story,″ he said. ``All my arrested reporters should be freed henceforth.″

The arrests came after Parliament Deputy Speaker Simon Mwila on Tuesday called on Defense Minister Chitalu Sampa to take action against The Post for the story.

Mwila accused Post journalists of being unpatriotic by implying that a division of 10,000 Angolan soldiers could easily conquer Zambia’s army of 20,000.

Relations between Angola and Zambia have been strained over recent allegations Zambia was supplying weapons and equipment to anti-government rebels in Angola. Zambia denies the charges.

The main human rights organization in Zambia, Afronet, on Wednesday called for the immediate release of the journalists, whose detention it said breached constitutional rights of free expression.

``The Post has a duty to inform all citizens what is going on and we would like to applaud their efforts,″ Afronet said.

Since M’membe founded the newspaper in 1991, The Post has won several international media awards. It is also facing several lawsuits, including one from President Frederick Chiluba for describing him in an editorial as a marijuana-smoking ``twit.″

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