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Journalist beaten by police, detained briefly, his photographs of forceful police action deleted

(MISA/IFEX) - On 17 April 2008, senior reporter Kaiko Namusa, from the state-owned newspaper "Times of Zambia", was assaulted and detained for over an hour at the Chipata Central Police station for taking pictures of police officers who were manhandling a cyclist for allegedly breaking traffic rules.

Namusa, who was in Eastern Province, Zambia, on an assignment with the Programme Against Malnutrition (PAM), said he was caught up in the fracas after police noticed him taking photographs of them beating a cyclist.

He said the police officers seized his camera after beating him and demanded that the photos be deleted, saying that if published, they would tarnish their image.

Namusa was then ordered to accompany the police officers to the station alongside the cyclist. Upon reaching the station, he was told to sit on the floor with other suspects as officers told him it was wrong for him to take photographs in their town.

Namusa said that when he demanded the return of his camera, the officers got annoyed and sought permission from their superiors to have him locked up. One of their supervisors agreed that he be locked up for "conduct likely to cause a breach of peace", and that he only be released if his supervisor from Lusaka traveled to Chipata.

Police spokesperson Bonnie Kapeso condemned the beating of the reporter, saying police officers should respect the work of the media. Kapeso wondered how a journalist, armed with just a pen and a notebook, could pose a "danger to the peace" of the police officers.

Meanwhile, MISA Zambia has condemned the act and called on the Police Inspector General to address the matter, because the number of officers and other law enforcers beating and harassing journalists as they carried out their duties is on the rise.

"This is not the first time this is happening; if you recall, earlier this year, we had a similar incident when a wife who was bartered by her husband (a police officer) gave the story to 'The Post' newspaper. The police officer, who is an inspector, went to 'The Post' offices and threatened to sort out the reporters who had written the story. He also said he would sort out the reporter from the Muvi Television station who had also reported on the story. It seems, therefore, that no disciplinary measures are being taken by the police to deter such incidents, whose frequency is on the rise," MISA Zambia chairperson Henry Kabwe said.

"We need to see something happening in terms of punishment so that it may be prevented from happening in future," he lamented.

Namusa was only released when one of the officers managed to delete the pictures from his camera.

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