By Novell Zwangendaba – LUSAKA – Twenty-three IPI World Press Freedom Heroes have in a letter sent to Zambian President Rupiah Banda on Thursday, urged the Zambian authorities to reverse, on appeal, Mr M’membe’s 4 June conviction on contempt of court charges which led to a four-month prison sentence with hard labour. Mr M’membe, who is also an IPI World Press Freedom Hero, is currently free on bail pending the outcome of the appeal.
The conviction of Mr M’membe stemmed from a sequence of events that began a year ago when The Post news editor Chansa Kabwela sent pictures of a woman giving birth in the street to the Zambian Health Minister and other officials in an effort to draw attention to the
consequences of a nurses’ strike. Kabwela was charged with distributing obscene materials. In November, a Lusaka magistrate found that Kabwela had no case to answer – a decision IPI welcomed as a press freedom victory.
Meanwhile, however, Fred M’membe and The Post had been charged with contempt of court for publishing an op-ed by Cornell University Law Professor Muna Ndulo calling the case against Kabwela a “comedy of errors.”
On Friday 4 June, Mr. M’membe, The Post and Mr. Ndulo were found guilty of contempt. Mr. M’membe spent a weekend in Lusaka central prison before being released on bail.