On the morning of Tuesday, November 29, 2023, journalist Thomas Zyambo was trailed and subsequently arrested by the Zambia Police in the Silverest area, following days of surveillance. Held at Chilenje Police Station without formal charges, Zyambo is suspected to be the driving force behind the Zambian Whistleblower, an online publication known for its critical perspective on the Hakainde Hichilema administration.
Although Mr. Zyambo had been on the police radar for an extended period, events took a dramatic turn on Tuesday when plainclothes officers conducted a raid on the lodge where he was staying. With a forceful entry into his room, they swiftly confiscated his phones and laptop before transporting him to Chilenje Police Station.
Subsequently, on November 30, 2023, the police officially announced the arrest and formal charges against Thomas Allan Zyambo, a 50-year-old resident of plot number 25311 on Mosi-O-Tunya road in Woodlands. The charges pertain to Seditious Practices, as outlined in Section 57 (1) (c) read with Section 60 (1) (e) of the Penal Code Act Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia. The alleged offence occurred on October 18, 2023, in the Lusaka District of the Lusaka Province, Republic of Zambia. The accusation suggests that, through the Facebook page “Zambian Whistleblower,” Zyambo and unidentified collaborators published an article with seditious intentions, intending to provoke discontent or disaffection among the people of Zambia.
As of now, the accused remains in custody, and the police await his compliance with the specified bond conditions for potential release.
Expressing concern over this incident and others, the Zambia Institute of Independent Media Alliance (ZIIMA) has drawn attention to the growing trend of state arrests, limiting the space for media practitioners and fostering an environment that criminalizes critical journalism.
Wilson Pondamali, a consultant at ZIIMA, sounded the alarm regarding escalating threats and physical attacks on journalists over the past two years under the UPND government. Despite President Hichilema’s assurance of a safe working environment during his inauguration, incidents such as the summoning and equipment confiscation of SABC correspondent Arthur Davies Sikopo, as well as the termination of employment for journalists Stafrance Zulu, Conrad Chikweto, and Chongo Sampa at the Zambia Daily Mail, have fueled growing concerns.
Pondamali emphasized that Zyambo’s arrest, combined with a sedition charge, appears to be part of a deliberate campaign to intimidate media outlets critical of the UPND government. This development raises apprehensions about a shift towards dictatorial rule in Zambia, contrary to the UPND’s promises of enhanced freedom and democracy during the 2021 elections. The increasing harassment and intimidation of media professionals critical of the ruling party further cast doubt on the fulfillment of these commitments.