Thursday, 3 June 2010

Mmembe found guilty of contempt

Post Editor-in-Chief Fred Mmembe has been found guilty of contempt of court together with the Post Newspapers by a Lusaka magistrate court.

This is in the case in which Mr Mmembe and the Post newspapers are charged with contempt of court arising from an article authored by US-based Zambian Professor Muna Ndulo titled “The Chansa Kabwela case:A Comedy of Errors

In the allegedly contemptuous opinion piece, Cornell University Professor Muna B. Ndulo described the process against Kabwela as a “comedy of errors” and wrote that the obscenity case, which was widely decried as a politically motivated attack on the newspaper, was detrimental to Zambia’s image abroad.

Section 116 of the Zambian penal code criminalizes speech or writing that could prejudice opinion regarding an ongoing judicial proceeding.

The matter came up for judgment this morning before magistrate David Simusamba. In delivering judgment Magistrate Simusamba said the defence by Mr Mmembe that he was on leave at the time the article was published could not be considered by the court because he was the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper.

In November last year, Mr Mmembe described his case as a tactic used by tyrannical regime against press freedom. “Contempt of court is a charge that has been used by tyrannical regimes the world over against press freedom,” M’membe told the International Press Institute at the time. “We hope the judicial process will handle the case in a manner that preserves and promotes press freedom.”

Magistrate Simusamba has since reserved sentencing to Friday June 4,2010 at 09:00 hours.

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