Two Zambian journalists have been arrested and charged with sedition after the recent round of separatist and ethnically motivated rioting in Zambia’s Western Province. On 27 January, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement condemning government raids on a Mongu radio station, Radio Lyambayi. The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has also condemned the arrests of the two journalists.
All of this makes me wonder if the rest of the world has amnesia. The Zambia government seems to remember all too clearly the role that radios played in inciting violence that led to the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The rest of the world appears preoccupied with the rights of those who would incite violence.
Admittedly, it is still unclear whether Radio Lyambayi was actually involved in the ethnically-based separatist campaign that led to two dead youths and two days of rioting in Mongu earlier this month. But is it worth the risk for officials in Lusaka to allow Radio Lyambayi to operate while the investigation is under way? I would say no.
While the closure of Radio Lyambayi might seem like an infringement on civil liberties to human rights groups in Europe and the United States, for officials in Lusaka, it might seem like a necessity to prevent further violence.
This brings us back to the age-old problem: should we limit freedoms of speech and expression for the greater good of the community?