he year under review was bridled
with numerous tumultuous
The Zambian political and social
peppered with incidents ranging from
the death of a student from Copperbelt University who
was injured by police during a protest,
to the bombing of a privately-owned
media house in Lusaka and the declaration of a state of emergency following a
spate of arson attacks on public installations.
Hostility and suspicion towards the State
in 2017 continued, based on antagonism built up during the 2016 general
elections, the closure of The Post and
the disputed election results by the leader of the main opposition party.
Media freedom came under the glare
of the spotlight in June 2016, with the
closure of The Post - one of the oldest
privately-owned dailies in Zambia - due
to a dispute with the Zambian Revenue
Authority. This was seen by critics as a
move to eradicate an alternative critical
voice ahead of the crucial election process of voting.
Soon after the elections, Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the opposition United
Party for National Development (UPND)
disputed the results, refused to recognise Edgar Chagwa Lungu as President
and subsequently petitioned the Constitutional Court to nullify the results on
procedural grounds. The lack of recognition of the elected President was seen,
by some, as the cause of the opposition
leader’s motorcade refusing to give way
to the presidential motorcade in 2017


So This is Democracy? 2017

when both leaders headed to a traditional ceremony called Kuomoka in the
western province. This resulted in Mr
Hichilema being charged with treason
for threatening the life of the President1.
During the period under review, a spate
of arsons - one of which burned down
the main market in Lusaka throwing
hundreds of micro and small entrepreneurs into poverty- led President Lungu
to declare a “Threatened State of Public
Emergency” based on Article 31 of the
Constitution, which lasted for 3 months.
It was said to be an effort to tighten security within the country which had experienced electricity power lines burnt
in suspected acts of sabotage, plunging
sections of the Copperbelt province,
including a football stadium, into darkness. While it was assumed that the
state of emergency would hinder freedom of expression, freedom of movement and association, it was not so,
because life continued as usual. Instead
the provisions gave security wings legal
capacity to effect arrests and carry out
searches without much paper work to
avoid loss of time in curbing acts of suspected sabotage of public installations.
Based on the declaration, the acts of arson fizzled out. However traders grappled with their reduced assets and had
to continue trading in the market despite
the absence of a roof, amidst downpours
and with minimal capital, as they were
not able to recover from the loss caused
by the fire.
The glimmer of hope on the horizon was
the birth of News Diggers! newspaper;
which hit the streets on 18 December
2017 and was established by former
staff members of the defunct The Post.
News Diggers! started out as an online
1 http://www.bbc.com/news/av/worldafrica-39583817/how-road-rage-led-to-treasoncharge-in-zambia

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