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Security personnel prevent journalists from photographing stranded airplane of visiting president

(MISA/IFEX) - On 17 July 2007, security personnel at the Livingstone International Airport attempted to stop Edward Mulenga, a bureau chief of the "Times of Zambia" newspaper, and other journalists from taking pictures. They also threatened to confiscate Mulenga's camera. Mulenga and the other journalists were trying to photograph an airplane with Djibouti's President Ismail Guelleh on board, which was unable to take off.

Mulenga told MISA Zambia that security personnel ordered journalists to stop taking photos. The journalists were at the airport to cover the departure of President Guelleh from Zambia's tourist capital, Livingstone, to Lusaka.

The security personnel also tried to grab Mulenga's camera, but he was able to retain it by assuring them that he would delete the photographs. He did not do so, however, and instead sent them to the "Times of Zambia", which did not publish them.

Mulenga said that, when the security personnel asked why he was taking pictures, he told them, "Look, I'm doing my job, just like you", and that he was doing his best to capture the events.

He told MISA Zambia that he was not frightened by the incident. "It was one of those things we journalists come across in the course of our day."

In the end, Mulenga was able to reason with the security. "We resolved the whole thing. I made them see we were both doing our jobs," he said.

Father Frank Bwalya, the chairperson of MISA Zambia, said it is understandable that security may be tight since there was a foreign president involved, but as long as journalists identified themselves and stayed behind security barriers, there should be no reason to prevent them from exercising their professional duties.

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