Moreover, ActionAid is very concerned with recent developments in relation to The Post Newspaper, notably the arrest and detention of the Editor in Chief Fred M’membe, his wife Mutinta and deputy News Editor Joseph Mwenda. The tax issue has led to these arrests, even after a court order was issued on 27 June. As an institution that advocates for human rights, we are of the view that the selective enforcement of tax collection undermines the principles and values of a democratic state. ActionAid is therefore demanding the court’s decision be respected and upheld, and the individuals be released immediately.
By not respecting the decision of the revenues tribunal, both the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) and Zambia Police suggest that they are not free from political influence.
ActionAid is concerned that the tax rules being applied to the Post Newspaper are different from the rules being applied to other companies, including prominent public media outlets. Although the ZRA has the mandate to enforce tax compliance, it is our view that the manner in which it has handled the Post issue is regrettable. Despite the existence of a payment plan, ZRA decided to shut down the company even as the matter was before courts of law. It is equally saddening that the police, charged with ensuring that the law is upheld, are acting in contravention of the court order.
We therefore, demand the release of the trio and that the charges leveled against them are dropped because this represents a threat to Zambia’s democracy, a curb to the freedom of expression and a gag on the media.
Action Aid, like other national and international actors, is calling on this government to respect the rule of law and ensure the freedom of the press at this critical time as the country prepares to go to the polls in August.