Zambian Opposition Leader Charged with Criminal Libel, Hate Speech

Zambia's then-president-elect Hakainde Hichilema addresses a press conference at his residence in Lusaka, Zambia, Aug, 16, 2021. An opposition leader has been arrested after criticizing Hichilema's media director on Facebook.

Zambian Opposition Leader has been Charged with Criminal Libel, Hate Speech. The Police in Zambia have arrested an opposition leader after she criticized President Hakainde Hichilema’s media director.

National Democratic Party leader Saboi Imboela is in police custody and has been read a “warn and caution” statement informing her that whatever she says could be used against her in a court of law, said Police spokesperson Rae Hamoonga.

Hamoonga said Imboela was arrested for a Facebook post that criticized the president’s media director, Clayson Hamasaka. Imboela’s lawyer, Joseph Chirwa, said she was called into police headquarters in Lusaka on Tuesday and told she would be questioned by the anti-fraud squad.

“She was warned and cautioned rather for the offense of hate speech contrary to Section 65 of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act. She was warned and cautioned, charged and arrested for the offense of criminal libel contrary to Section 191 of the Penal Code of Zambia, Chapter 27 of the laws of Zambia,” Chirwa said.

Zambia enacted the controversial measure in 2021 under the former ruling party, the Patriotic Front. Critics have expressed concern that the law is being used to muzzle freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to privacy.

More than a dozen opposition leaders and citizens have been arrested in the past year for public comments deemed critical of the government or government officials.

The opposition and human rights defenders have accused the ruling party of suppressing dissent. Hichilema’s spokesperson, Anthony Bwalya, has repeatedly denied the allegations, calling the opposition “petty.”

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