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Newpaper editor cleared for mailing childbirth images

Zambian President Rupiah Banda ordered the arrest of Chansa Kabwela over the incident.
Zambian President Rupiah Banda ordered the arrest of Chansa Kabwela over the incident.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chansa Kabwela wanted to highlight conditions in which women were being forced to give birth during a hospital strike
  • She mailed pictures to government ministers of a woman delivering a baby in a hospital parking lot
  • Zambian President Rupiah Banda described the photos as pornographic and Kabwela was ordered arrested
RELATED TOPICS
  • Zambia

(CNN) -- A court in Zambia has acquitted a newspaper editor who was tried on obscenity charges for mailing photographs of a woman giving birth.

Chansa Kabwela, the editor of the Post, wanted to highlight the conditions in which women were being forced to give birth during a hospital strike last summer. She mailed pictures to government ministers of a woman delivering a baby in a hospital parking lot.

But Zambian President Rupiah Banda described the photos as pornographic and Kabwela was ordered arrested.

On Monday, a judge in the capital Lusaka ruled there was no evidence the photos were obscene or could corrupt public morals. He dismissed the case.

Kabwela was out of the office Wednesday and could not immediately be reached.

But as she exited the courtroom, she told Reporters Without Borders that she was relieved.

"My victory is also a victory for all those who suffered during the health sector strikes," she said. "I am happy the court acquitted me. I had no intention of causing anyone any harm. The letter I wrote to the vice-president was very clear. I just wanted to draw his attention to the situation in the hospitals."

The month-long nurse's strike in June was over pay and benefits. It shut down hospital wards, turning away hundreds of patients.

At the time, a woman's husband snapped pictures as she gave birth in the hospital parking lot after being denied admission. The baby later died, said the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The husband gave the photos to the Post who deemed them to graphic to publish.

Kabwela then included them in a letter she wrote to the vice president, the health minister and several non-governmental organizations urging that the strike be settled.

Soon afterward, Banda ordered police to take action against Kabwela.

Journalism advocacy groups believe Banda retaliated against the newspaper because of its frequent criticism of his policies.

At least six members of the newspaper's staff have been physically or verbally attacked by leaders of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy since the year began, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.