IPI Warns GRZ Over ZRA Raid On The Post.
The International Press Institute (IPI) has warned the Government of The Republic of Zambia that failure to afford The Post a transparent legal hearing of its case with Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) would have a chilling effect on media freedom in Zambia. And the media Institute of Southern Africa, Zambia Chapter, has issued an alert on the Zambia Revenue Authority’s raid on The Post. Last Friday morning, the ZRA, in the company of armed police made several attempts to close down The Post under instructions from State House.
Nine ZRA officers and two paramilitary police armed with AK47 rifles stormed Post Newspapers headquarters on Bwinjimfumu Road, demanding that the company makes an immediate payment of K16.9 million to the authority. The International Press Institute then sent an email to inquire about the matter, but ZRA did not respond, compelling the institute to issue a statement through its director for advocacy and communications, Steven Ellis, to express concern over the raid. Ellis stated that it was sad that the ZRA raid was coming amid mounting pressure on the publication in recent months. “We are extremely concerned by today’s action, particularly coming on the heels of incidents in recent months that have ratcheted up pressure against The Post,” he stated.
“Given the nature of the claims and the amounts sought, the case against The Post needs to be transparent and to be given time to work its way through legal process. A failure to afford bot would have a chilling effect on media freedom in Zambia.”
Ellis stated that IPI was disappointed that the ZRA raid was conducted in spite of a hearing set on 9 November to determine whether to stay enforcement of a High Court judgement against the company in the tax case while The Post appeals that judgement.
“In July, criminal charges were brought against Post Editor-in-Chief and IPI World Press Freedom hero Fred M’membe for allegedly disclosing classified information in an investigative piece The Post published about corruption in the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party. Moreover, earlier this year, Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu made public remarks that were widely interpreted to represent a veiled death threat against M’membe.”
MISA-Zambia was currently monitoring the situation and has since issued an alert on the government’s clear harassment of the newspaper.