CIVICUS urges Zambia to guarantee an enabling environment for Civil Society
Johannesburg. 8 February 2013. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation expresses serious concerns on the escalating campaign to silence independent dissent in Zambia, calling on the government to take immediate steps to protect media and civil society freedoms.
A number of civil society organizations advocating for greater civic engagement in Zambia’s ongoing constitution-making process have recently been threatened with deregistration. Moreover, in an apparent attempt to suppress voices critical of President Michael Sata and the ruling Patriotic Front, several journalists and political activists have been arrested on various charges including defamation of the President and operating unsanctioned media outlets.
On 26 December 2012, the Office of Registrar of Societies informed the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP), a non-governmental organization established in 1992 to promote and strengthen democratic governance in Zambia, that their registration would be discontinued in 28 days. The letter, which was sent without prior notification, reportedly makes several unfounded allegations of organisational misconduct including “pursuing objectives contrary to the objectives for which [FODEP] was formed” and “failing to furnish [the Office of Registrar of Societies] of such duly audited accounts”. FODEP has since issued an exhaustive response questioning the validity of the Office of Registrar of Societies’ assertions.