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Opposition supporters demonstrate outside "The Post" newspaper over elections coverage

(MISA/IFEX) - On 30 September 2006, supporters of the opposition party Patriotic Front (PF) demonstrated outside the offices of the privately-owned newspaper "The Post" in Lusaka to protest a story which predicted that incumbent President Levy Mwanawasa and the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) party would win the general elections held on 28 September.

The party supporters were incensed by the lead story in the newspaper, headlined "Levy headed for victory", which said the ruling MMD would win 81 parliamentary seats out of 150, while Mwanawasa would beat his four rivals, including the PF president, Michael Sata.

Sata had earlier accused "The Post" of conniving with the government to give an impression that Mwanawasa would win the elections.

"The Post" reported in its 1 October edition that the PF supporters displayed banners which attacked the newspaper and its editor, Fred M'membe.

The chairperson of the newspaper's Press Freedom Committee, Webster Malido, defended the newspaper's right to publish the story despite a perception in Lusaka and the Copperbelt provinces that Sata would emerge victorious.

"The media should be allowed to present the picture as they are getting it on the ground. The fact that different individuals have specific preferences does not necessarily mean that the media should not reflect the truth as it is unfolding," Malido said in a statement.

MISA-Zambia Chairperson Father Frank Bwalya, in a 1 October statement, condemned the demonstration against the newspaper and Sata's attacks.

In results announced on 2 October, Mwanawasa was declared the winner with 42.98 percent of the votes cast, while Sata came second with 29.37 percent. The other three candidates shared the remaining votes.

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