PRESS STATEMENT: AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa Commends Zambian Court for Protecting Free Speech in Zambia
AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa Commends Zambian Court for Protecting Free Speech in Zambia
Windhoek, Namibia, 26 February – The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) has lauded the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court for protecting the right to freedom of expression in Zambia after the court found that the government had failed to prove its case against Zambian human rights and HIV activist, Paul Kasonkomona.
“We commend the Zambian judiciary for fulfilling its duty to protect the fundamental human right to freedom of expression, which is protected by the Zambian Constitution as well as by various regional and international human rights frameworks,” said Michaela Clayton, director of ARASA. “The right to freedom of expression is one of the main pillars of a democracy and is crucial for monitoring the abuse of power, ensuring good governance and government accountability to various obligations,” said Clayton.
Kasonkomona was arrested on 7 April 2013 outside the Muvi TV studios after appearing on a television programme and speaking out on how the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are crucial to addressing HIV in Zambia. He was subsequently charged under section 178(g) of the Zambian Penal Code which provides that “every person who in any public place solicits for immoral purposes” is deemed an idle and disorderly person, and liable to imprisonment for one month or to a fine.
“The protection of the right to freedom of expression is crucial in the context of the raging HIV epidemic in Zambia, as well as other countries in southern and east Africa, where groups at higher risk of HIV such as men who have sex with men and sex workers are marginalised and not being reached by services due to the criminalised nature of their behavior,” elaborated Clayton. “This case highlighted the plight of human rights defenders in Africa who are routinely harassed, intimidated, arrested, prosecuted and targeted with threats and acts of violence for exercising their right to freedom of expression, particularly in defense of marginalised groups of people.”