Zambia court dismisses suit against editor

Monday September 28 2009

By ELIAS MBAO, NATION Correspondent, Lusaka

The Lusaka High Court has dismissed the contempt case against Zambia’s The Post newspaper editor-in-chief.

High Court judge Albert Wood quashed proceedings against Mr Fred M’membe, his deputy Sam Mujuda and a Zambian law professor based in the US Muna Ndulo, after the trio sought judicial review of the decision of a lower court that cited them for contempt, after the latter wrote an article in The Post about the proceedings against the newspaper’s news editor Chansa Kabwela on charges of circulating obscene matters.

Making a ruling, Judge Wood said Lusaka Chief Resident Magistrate Charles Kafunda had no mandate to cite the trio with contempt of court in the manner he did and the alleged contempt should have been tried by another court as the records showed that Prof Ndulo’s article was not committed in the face of court.

Comedy of errors

“…the contempt proceedings before the learned Chief Resident Magistrate cannot simply stand, I therefore quash all proceedings relating to the contempt proceedings in the court below,” ruled judge Wood.

On August 27, 2009 The Post published an article by Prof Ndulo entitled ‘The Chansa Kabwela case: a comedy of errors’.

State prosecutors complained to Mr Kafunda, who in turn cited the entire editorial staff of The Post to appear before him on September 2.

However, only acting editor-in-chief Mujuda and two other editors appeared before the magistrate.

Therefore, Mr Kafunda issued a bench warrant of arrest for Mr M’membe, who was on leave, insisting that he wanted him to appear in court despite the lawyers arguments that the summons were not served in his names.

But Judge Wood observed: “It (summon) does not give the slightest indication of names or at the very least the name of the newspaper.”

Earlier this year, Kabwela received photographs of a woman giving birth outside a hospital in Lusaka without medical care at the peak of health workers’ strike, but since they were gruesome, she decided not to publish them but sent the same to Vice-President George Kunda, Health minister and other government officials hoping the pictures would move them to end the strike.