9 June 2010

Africa: Tlakula Urges Repeal of Repressive Zambian Law

Johannesburg — THE special rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information in Africa, advocate Pansy Tlakula, yesterday appealed to Zambia's president to repeal a law used to convict and imprison Fred M'membe, the editor-in-chief of The Post.

Ms Tlakula, who is also SA's chief electoral officer, said section 116 (1) (d) of the Zambia Penal code, which was used to convict Mr M'membe, was incompatible with regional and international guarantees of freedom of expression provided for in the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, and other human rights instruments to which Zambia was a party.

As a representative of the African Union, she urged the Zambian government to bring its laws in line with international standards and for President Rupiah Banda to pardon Mr M'membe, who was sentenced this month to four months' imprisonment with hard labour.

Mr M'membe sent pictures to the Zambian health minister showing a woman giving birth in the street. The newspaper published an opinion piece on the matter but the pictures were not published. T he newspaper was found guilty of contempt. Mr M'membe is out on bail of 20-million kwacha pending appeal.

Ms Tlakula said the conviction and imprisonment of Mr M'membe came a few days after a resolution was taken at the African Commission on Human and People's Rights on the deteriorating situation of freedom of expression in Africa.

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