A Lusaka court yesterday acquitted The Post editor Chansa Kabwela of a charge of “distributing obscene material” for sending the vice-president photos of a woman giving birth in a hospital car park during a strike by hospital staff. Judge Charles Kafunda dismissed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence that the photos would corrupt public morals.
“The judge took the right decision as the charges against Kabwela were ridiculous and baseless,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We nonetheless regret that the authorities subjected her to this ordeal for many months for no reason.”
As she emerged from the courtroom, Kabwela told Reporters Without Borders she was happy and relieved. “My victory is also a victory for all those who suffered during the health sector strikes,” she said. “I am happy that the court acquitted me. I had no intention of causing anyone any harm. The letter I wrote to the vice-president was very clear. I just wanted to draw his attention to the situation in the hospitals.”
15.07.2009 - Ridiculous pornography charges brought against newspaper editor
Reporters Without Borders is outraged to learn that Chansa Kabwela, the editor of the independent daily The Post, was arrested on 13 July on a charge of “distributing obscene materials”, namely photos of a woman giving birth in a hospital car park. She was released on bail pending trial in August or September after pleading not guilty yesterday.
“Kabwela’s arrest is shocking and the grounds are ridiculous,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the government to withdraw these absurd charges. Kabwela is clearly innocent because she made a point of not publishing these photos. She just sent them to certain government officials and NGOs.”
The press freedom organisation added: “The photographs are anyway not pornographic. Their aim was to alert the authorities to a public health problem. This episode is just another case of the government obstructing this newspaper’s work.”
Kabwela wrote to Vice-President Georges Kunda, the health minister and several NGOs on 10 June voicing concern about the conditions in which women were giving birth as a result of a strike by hospital doctors and nurses. The letter included photos of a woman giving birth outside a hospital after being turned away.
A week later, President Rupiah Banda described the photos as pornographic and urged the police to take action. Kabwela was questioned by the Lusaka police for several hours on 2 July.
Zambia’s leading independent newspaper, The Post is being hounded by the authorities. Reporters Without Borders is aware of at least six cases of members of its staff being physically or verbally attacked by leaders of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy since the start of the year.
Picture : Chansa Kabwela (The Post)