May 3, 2010

More of the Same

Last June, Post editor Chansa Kabwela was arrested and charged with circulating obscene materials. This happened after she sent pictures of a woman giving birth without proper medical assistance to Zambia’s vice-president, top government officials, and a women’s group to highlight the severity of an ongoing strike by health workers.

The president publicly declared the pictures as pornographic and launched an investigation with the intent of prosecuting the “perpetrator”. This completely overshadowed the intent of Kabwela’s actions – drawing attention to a very serious crisis in healthcare, and instead highlighted a signature trait of the current administration - paranoid hysteria. 

Kabwela was subsequently acquitted, and today was named Journalist of Year and Press Freedom award winner during the commemoration activities for World Press Freedom Day. 

During the same event acting Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dora Siliya stated “...government appreciates that the media is the loudest whistle blowers on issues of national development”, and that by working together the common goal of national development can be reached.

If any part of Siliya’s statements were honest and not self-aggrandising the Kabwela case would not have unfolded the way it did. It would have been a watershed moment to make improvements in healthcare, and thus preventing the senseless loss of life due to the lack of adequate medical care. 

We’ve had enough platitudes and lipservice – real commitment is shown through action. Our government continues to fail in its mission to deliver meaningful development, and when faced with criticism of the same, acts to silence critics with harassment and threats of imprisonment. 

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