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Lusambo’s sentiments, fair or a threat to freedom of expression?

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Bowman Lusambo

The sentiments made by Lusaka Province Minister, Hon. Bowman Lusambo, created headlines with many asking if there is indeed freedom of expression in the country.

The minister allegedly threatened some youths and artists for speaking their minds on how the country is being run, through recorded videos which were being shared on social media.

Lusambo charged that the expressions by the individuals were an attack on the person and office of the President. What he implied therefore were to the effect that President Edgar Lungu should not be criticised, a view seen by many as having dictatorial tendencies.

Under democratic rule, as Zambia is, or purported to be, constructive criticism should be tolerated, it provides checks and balances on the executive.

A closer look on the recorded videos by the individuals, Brian Bwembya, whose stage name is B-Flow, Kings Malembe Malembe and Chellar Tukuta, revealed the youths spoke their minds in a way that could not have angered Lusambo, to the extent of making threats.

It is therefore, a common view that the Minister exhibited a tendency that seem as meant to limit the individuals’ freedom of expression on account of equating their sentiments as defamation to the President, to which they weren’t.

The expresssions by the individuals neither threatened public order, public morality, nor did they injure national security, which are the coined international standards for limiting human rights, including freedom of expression.

Their sentiments in the videos were within the confines of the Right to Freedom of Expression as provided for under Article 20 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia and various Regional and International Human Rights Instruments to which Zambia is a signatory.

Zambia being a democracy, or as purported to be, should give the citizens to lawfully voice their concerns without fear of being threatened by those in power. Lusambo’s sentiments should not be taken as empty threats, because he is a leader with followers who could react to his words.

While it seems the three’s objective seem to have been to advise the President and as well as expressing themselves on governance matters, which is their constitutional and democratic right, Lusambo’s rants could be seen as amounting to suppression of the citizens’ right to freedom of speech and expression.

The Human Rights Commission, while commenting on the issue, equated the Minister’s sentiments as early warning signs of dictatorial tendencies characterized by intimidation of individuals and suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Commission said suppression freedom of expression is one of the main features of a dictatorship saying should not be allowed to take root in Zambia.

The call is therefore, for government leaders to adhere to the rule of law, constitutionalism and respect for human rights and refrain from over relying on common sense when dealing with national matters.

Meanwhile, the Ruling Patriotic Front (PF) as if in damage control, has divorced itself from Lusambo’s sentiments saying it stands with all players in the arts industry as far as matters of national development are concerned.

As stated by the party, the government will always listen to citizens whenever they raise issues premised on national development. Party Secretary General Hon. Davies Mwila has indicated that the party will censure it’s members to allow people express themselves freely.

As if in discord, President Lungu recently stood in Lusambo’s corner.

Lungu said there is nothing wrong with Lusambo demanding an apology from the artists for insulting the Presidency because he was exercising his democratic right of expression which some people claim is being threatened under the PF regime.

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31