Zambian "porn" journalist found not guilty

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lusaka, Zambia
Image: Acntx.

A Zambian journalist accused of distributing pornography because she sent officials photographs of a woman forced to give birth in a carpark outside a hospital was found not guilty yesterday in Lusaka. The accused, Chansa Kabwela, faced a prison sentence of five years; she contested that she had only mailed the photos to highlight the effects of a strike at hospitals throughout the country. The baby shown in the photos had died because of lack of medical attention.

President Rupiah Banda had said that the photographs were pornographic, but magistrate Charles Kafunda said the prosecution had not proved that the photographs corrupted morals, and they were therefore not obscene. "The pictures fall outside the circumstances of determining obscenity. I have had recourse to the photos in question," he said.

The Post newspaper, for whom Kabwela is a news editor, had not published the photos. Instead, she forwarded them to vice-president George Kunda and non-governmental organisations. Speaking to German Press Agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur she stated she had acted in good faith and had attempted to bring attention to the effects of the strike. "I'm happy that the court has vindicated me. This is a victory for the media," she said.

This is a victory for the media

—Chansa Kabwela

According to Kabwela and other press freedom campaigners, the case was political. Since President Banda's election in October 2008, he has had a difficult relationship with the press, in particular with The Post, whom he accuses of conspiring with the opposition by reporting false stories about his government; The Press has made a number of accusations of government corruption.