Zambian High Court has ruled that it is not an offence to publish false news, therefore, Boris Muziba, Mr. Nayoto Mwenda, and Mr. Sikwibele Wasilota should be released with Compensation – Rev. Fr. Chanakila

12 December 2014
Author 

I heard a voice say this to me, “can you ask among the learned lawyers of this country why the three youths (Mr. Boris Muziba, Mr. Nayoto Mwenda, and Mr. Sikwibele Wasilota) are serving a three years jail sentence when the High Court has ruled that it is not an offence to publish false news in a democratic dispensation in Zambia.” I looked around to see who was speaking to me, then I realised it was the voice of the conscience, that inner “policeman” who always urges us to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. Whenever there is no justice in the society, the people suffer, especially the poor. The Social teaching of the Catholic Church is clear on this, We need to show Solidarity, because we are our "brothers' and sisters' keepers", wherever they live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity means learning that "loving our neighbour." Those three youths who were arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to three years imprisonment should now be released with compensation. Among our learned men and women in law I beg you in the name of God to use the law you have learnt to secure the freedom of those youths. A friend of mine a lawyer said this to me,

“The law is clear on the freedom of the press in Zambia. All of us including u and I are free to inform and publicise any form of news. We can report on the happenings in the country. Further, we have the freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution [Article 20 (1)]. Given the facts you have given, I wonder why the youths are locked up. That is a clear violation of human rights and an arbitrary use of powers. Given the law I have alluded to, the youths are at liberty to report on anything. However, if what they report on is malicious and turns out to be untrue then they will be liable for defamation. Defamation Father is not a criminal offence, it is a civil offence whose penalty if found liable are damages to be paid to the injured party. The only criminal offence related to Defamation is the defamation of the President.”

My position is that the youths should be released immediately. The Catholic Church teaches that “that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met.” If they reported on an issue in a malicious way, let he who is injured move to the Mongu High Court. What the authorities are committing is an abrogation of rights. Let someone stand up for what is right, especially for our youths! Why are our brothers still in prison? Where is Justice? Where is the integrity in this incarceration? What are they still doing in prison in the clear land mark light of the judgment of the High Court? The three Nayoto Mwenda, 32, Boris Muziba, 36 and Sikwibele Wasilota, 33 were charged and convicted with the offence of publication of false news with intent to alarm and cause fear or to disturb public peace contrary to Section 67 (1) Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia. Why are the human rights groups quiet? Is this not what God condemns in Holy Book of Amos 2:7 “The trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.” In another text, God says to Amos to tell the authorities, “you who turn Justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground.” He further boldly told them, “you oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of Justice in the courts” Amos 5:2. Someone may say, ‘priest what is your interest in all this?’ This is our divine calling, to be prophets to the nations, to stand for justice, it is the reason we are ordained. One such example is of St. Eugene de Mazenod, a French priest and founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate whose congregation believe in the charism of “preaching the Gospel to the poor”....to seek out in a special way “in the lives of the most abandoned in their many faces and voices, and struggle with these...to safeguard human dignity and respond to the calls of Justice and integrity....”

By Rev. Fr. Chanakila Muyunda,

Santa Croce University, Rome, Italy

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