CIVICUS calls on the Zambian authorities to immediately drop all the charges against journalist and activist Eric Chiyuka.
Eric Chiyuka was arrested on 26 March 2022 while covering an incident over a disputed piece of land that involved police and community leaders in the northwest of Mufumbwe in Zambia. The arrest and subsequent charging of Chiyuka for spurious assault charges threaten press and media freedoms as a foundation of democratic and accountable governance in Zambia and has a chilling effect on development, human rights, and freedom of expression and access to information in the country and is also an unfortunate reflection of the misuse of the criminal justice mechanisms by authorities to harass and intimidate journalists and activists. All governments must protect the right to freedom of expression and information.
CIVICUS urges the Zambian government to re-commit to the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of Zambians as promised in 2021 in the inaugural speech of President Hakainde Hichilema. The intimidation of journalists by government authorities with trumped-up charges should be condemned.
Any thriving democracy demands that all pillars of democracy, such as the free media, are operational, respected and promoted. Charging Eric for doing his work violates media freedom and signals that the Zambia government is unwilling to implement its commitments and obligations under national and international legal frameworks. Therefore, the immediate release of Eric cannot be over-emphasised, and his continued detention undermines the New Dawn government's commitment to promoting free and independent media in Zambia, says McDonald Chipenzi- GEARS Zambia Executive Director.
CIVICUS recommends that the government of Zambia should:
- Immediately and unconditionally drop all the charges against Eric Chiyuka.
- Stop all forms of harassment and victimisation of the person of Eric Chiyuka.
- Conduct an independent investigation into the violence perpetrated against Eric Chiyuka and bring the perpetrators of such crimes to legal process.
- Respect and protect the press freedom and rights to citizens' freedom of expression.
- Create an enabling environment for civil society organisations to operate by removing restrictions and threats on the right to freedom of expression to ensure civil society, activists, and citizens can express themselves without fear of reprisals.
- Stop the misuse of the criminal and justice mechanisms to harass Eric Chiyuka and other journalists and activists.
The civic space in Zambia is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor.