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Zambian reporter charged with sedition, suspected of affiliation with critical website

Thomas Zyambo, a journalist suspected of having links to an online news service provider, the Zambian Watchdog, has been charged with sedition. After spending over 48 hours in police custody, the journalist was released on bail late Thursday, 11 July 2013.

Zyambo was arrested together with another journalist and academic, Clayson Hamasaka, in the early hours of Tuesday, 9 July 2013 and both were put in police confinement. Police, with the aid of a drug enforcement agency, raided the pair's houses separately and confiscated computers and other digital equipment.

Hamasaka was released without charge on Wednesday, 10 July after spending nearly two days in police custody, but has since been ordered to report to police for further questioning. One his lawyers, Gilbert Phiri, confirmed to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) that Hamasaka had been ordered to report to police headquarters on Friday morning at 09:00 am Central Africa Time.

At the time of publishing this update [12 July 2013], it was not yet clear whether Hamasaka was going to be charged or indeed, spend the rest of the day in police custody.

Offences in respect to seditious practices are found under Sections 57, 58, 59, 60 and 61 of the penal code.

The definitions of what constitutes seditious practices or intentions are broad and a number of legitimate actions can be interpreted as seditious. It is up to a court of law to determine whether indeed what has been published is seditious or not.

The Zambian Watchdog is seen as critical of the ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF), and has come under a series of verbal attacks from party sympathisers, including government officials, as of late. The website has also reported suspected denial of service attempts in recent weeks.

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