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Court drops contempt case; asks Director of Public Prosecutions to take it up

(MISA/IFEX) - On 27 January 1998, the Lusaka High Court dropped its
intentions to have "The Post" newspaper editor-in-chief Fred M'membe, senior
reporter Reuben Phiri and human rights activists Lucy Sichone and Alfred
Zulu answer contempt of court charges, reports the Zambia Independent Media
Association (ZIMA/MISA-Zambia). The contempt charges followed remarks
carried in Phiri's 12 January article quoting Sichone and Zulu describing as
"cheap" the charges brought against detained former president Kenneth
Kaunda. On 13 January, the High Court ruled the remarks subjudice because
they were made while Kaunda's case was still being heard. M'membe was
included in the charges in his capacity as editor-in-chief of "The Post"
(see IFEX alert).

**Updates IFEX alert of 27, 20 and 15 January 1998**

In his 27 January ruling, High Court Judge James Mutale said that he would
refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to determine
whether there was a case worth bringing before the courts. This was after
the respondents urged him to dismiss the proceedings based on the argument
that they were never served with summonses. They also argued that the
attorney general, whose complaint prompted the four to be cited for
contempt, was not in court to prosecute, "indicating his unwillingness to
proceed with the matter." Judge Mutale said he could not proceed with the
matter until the DPP advises. "The appropriate authority to deal with
matters that go to disturb the wheels of justice is the DPP," he said. "I
won't make an order relating to punishment but order that the office of the
DPP take action and see if there is a breach [of the court privileges] in
this action."

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