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Photojournalist Thomas Nsama assaulted by supporters of ruling party

(MISA/IFEX) - On 28 February 2009, supporters of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) beat up "The Post" photojournalist Thomas Nsama. The incident occurred at Chipata International Airport in Zambia's Eastern province. Nsama had gone to the airport to cover the arrival of Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa's African National Congress (ANC), who was visiting the province. The photojournalist was beaten after the arrival of Zambian President Rupiah Banda.

In an interview with MISA-Zambia, Nsama said that three MMD cadres approached and beat him up as he was conversing with Dickson Jere, the State House Chief Analyst for Press and Public Relations. Jere's attempts to stop the MMD supporters from beating Nsama, who was dragged away while being punched in the head, failed. The cadres demanded that Nsama hand over his camera and produce his press pass but the photojournalist refused. The assailants then threatened to "sort him out" if he did not leave the airport. Nsama refused to leave and the cadres started beating him again.

Nsama was whisked away from his assailants by State House police officers and was advised not to cover the function because the police officers were already occupied with the protection requirements for the Zambian president and Zuma.

Nsama said that he suffered bodily pain and has since filed an assault report with the police in Chipata. He only managed to obtain a medical report the next day as there was no medical doctor at the clinic he visited to seek help.

Nsama was not able to take pictures of Zuma's arrival at the airport, nor of the N'cwala annual traditional ceremony of the Ngoni people of Zambia which was attended by Zuma. According to the photojournalist, the MMD supporters beat him because they "had had enough" of the newspaper reporting on their president. "They even boasted that they were known by President Banda. They uttered words that they would beat up and kill me because I was from 'The Post'," Nsama said.

MISA-Zambia Chairperson Henry Kabwe said that there is a need to ensure that the police take appropriate steps to protect the media by taking to book the MMD supporters who assaulted the journalist.

"If we continue seeing these beatings of journalists by the MMD cadres, then we will conclude that the government is behind this," he said.

Kabwe said there are better ways of resolving issues of concern between the media and any stakeholders.

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