Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty has urged President Edgar Lungu to uphold human rights of all, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, the organization said today after their meeting.
Shetty met with President Lungu at state house yesterday during his high level mission to the Southern African country.
“Zambia is facing a number of human rights challenges. Police constantly use the vague and overly broad provisions of the Public Order Act to limit the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The recent threatened state of emergency was a low point,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“Zambians have everything to gain and nothing to lose from the country’s history of freedoms that has characterized it since independence.”
President Edgar Lungu was re-elected in August 2016. In the months that led up to the election, the space for any kind of political dissent or freedom of expression shrank dramatically.
Police used the vague provisions of the Public Order Act and the Penal Code to limit the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
In the run up to the elections in August 2016, political campaigning was restricted and the independent media came under attack for its critical reporting of government’s activities.
In June 2016, one of the country’s oldest daily newspapers, The Post, was shut down after it was accused of owing taxes. Its owner, Fred M’membe and his wife Mutinta Mazoka-M’membe, and deputy managing editor Joseph Mwenda suffered abuses, including harassment, beatings and arrest at the hands of the police.
In August 2016 the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) of Zambia suspended the licences of three media outlets, Muvi TV, Komboni Radio and Radio Itezhi Tezhi. The IBA alleged that the three stations were guilty of professional misconduct and “posed a risk to national peace and stability” before and after the presidential election.
On 29 September 2017, a group of human rights defenders, including Laura Miti, Lewis Mwape and singer Pilato were arrested after they marched to parliament demanding answers about the procurement of 42 fire trucks that cost 42 million USD.
Last week, the IBA asked Prime TV to hand over recordings of all news bulletins and discussion programmes since 7 August 2016 after the station aired stories alleging vote rigging in last year’s elections.
Right to land and food
Shetty also met with representatives of different communities who are at the risk of losing their land and access to food due to large-scale land acquisitions that are currently taking place in different parts of the country, including villages such as Mbangweta, Demu, Kaindu, Mpande and Macha. Many of them are fighting to remain on their land, through courts, after they lost their land to private investors.
“Protecting human rights means also ensuring that people, particularly, those living in poverty are protected against all forms of exploitation,” said Salil Shetty.
“President Edgar Lungu must put the human rights of all Zambians, including economic, social and cultural rights.”