(MISA/IFEX) - On 27 September 2000, Mazuba Mwiinga, a volunteer reporter working for Mazabuka community radio station in Southern Zambia, pleaded "not guilty" in the Mazabuka magistrate's court to a charge of "publishing false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public".
The charge arose from a complaint brought to the police by Ken Manjomba, a former police officer turned businessman, about a news item aired on Radio Mazabuka's "Fast Track" programme on 23 August. The item apparently implicated Manjomba in the alleged misappropriation of students' examination fees at an unnamed college. Manjomba runs a pre-school teachers' training college in Mazabuka, where Mwiinga once worked.
Mwiinga told the Zambia Independent Media Association (ZIMA) that between 24 and 28 August, when he was finally detained, he underwent three phases of interrogation of about two hours each, during which police allegedly tried to coerce him into revealing the name of his source, apologise to the complainant and pay K500,000 (US$147) in compensation, all of which he refused. Police also allegedly confiscated a script of the broadcast, which they said they would produce as evidence in court.
On 17 October, Zambia police spokesperson Lemmy Kajoba confirmed the reporter's prosecution.
Meanwhile, ZIMA Chairperson Masautso Phiri condemned the prosecution, saying there was "nothing alarming in a report about alleged misappropriation of funds, and the police action borders on harassment of the journalist."
Mwiinga, who is on police bond, is expected to appear in court on 23 October for trial. He is charged under Section 67 of the Penal Code and if convicted faces up to three years' imprisonment.