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"The Post" editor-in-chief charged with contempt of court

(MISA/IFEX) - The editor-in-chief of The Post Newspapers Limited, Fred M'membe, appeared before Magistrate David Simusamba on 17 November 2009 to answer to charges of contempt of court leveled against him and "The Post" newspaper. He is being charged with one count of contempt of court contrary to Section 116 of the Penal Code, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia.

The contempt case is a result of an article authored by Muna Ndulo, a professor based in the United States of America. The article was entitled "The Chansa Kabwela Case: A Comedy of Errors" and was published by "The Post" newspaper on 27 August. Magistrate Simusamba noted that it was Chief Resident Magistrate Charles Kafunda's observation that the article touched on the then-ongoing Chansa Kabwela case, which was presided over by Kafunda. Kabwela, a news editor for "The Post", was facing charges of having circulated obscene material. She has since been acquitted of the charges.

Magistrate Simusamba said, "This, in my view, is the primary evidence that is before me. I find that a prima facie case was established against the editor of 'The Post' and 'The Post', and I accordingly put them on their defense."

He said that, on 1 October, Chief Inspector Desmond Mwanza filed a complaint, by way of an affidavit, regarding the newspaper article in question. On 7 October, Magistrate Kafunda reviewed the complaint and determined that it had merit.
On 14 October, M'membe and "The Post" pleaded not guilty to the contempt of court charge. Magistrate Simusamba said that, according to the evidence from the Kabwela case record, that was submitted by the prosecuting team, Magistrate Kafunda had given a directive restraining media houses from publishing any comments touching on the case.

M'membe is scheduled to appear in court again on 4 December.

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