Committee to Protect Journalists

Zambian authorities have arrested two journalists and accused them of publishing classified documents, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrests and calls on Zambian authorities to release them immediately.

Police today arrested Fred M’membe, editor of the independent daily The Post, and Mukosha Funga, the paper’s reporter, at the Woodlands Police Station in the capital, Lusaka, after summoning them to the station, according to news reports. The two have been charged with publishing classified documents, according to news reports.

Police said the charges were in connection with a letter the journalists published inThe Post. The letter, written by Zambia’s anti-corruption commission, had allegedly been sent to Zambian President Edgar Lungu, informing him of an inquiry into allegations that one of his aides had taken a bribe from a Chinese company seeking to operate in the country, the reports said. Some reports said that the letter was published in March, while others reported it had been published in April.

Munganga Chanda, a spokesman for the police, told reporters that both journalists were denying that the letter was classified.

“Zambian taxpayers need more, not fewer, journalists probing how their money is spent,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We call on authorities to drop the charges and release Fred M’membe and Mukosha Funga immediately.”

The journalists’ lawyers have applied for bail, which will be ruled upon on Friday,according to reports. Both M’membe and Funga were summoned by police for questioning in May, but were not arrested at the time, according to reports.

CPJ’s calls today to The Post, the Ministry of Information, and the Zambian Press Union were not answered.