By: Zac Papantoniou
For most people, the hurried rush of their everyday lives allows them to bustle about their routine, often taking for granted the protections afforded to them by our country’s Constitution. In the good ol’ U-S-of-A, most people wouldn’t think twice about criticizing the government; because here, in the land of freedom and opportunity, there really aren’t any repercussions to be faced when we express our point-of-view with regard to the way things are being run. This type of willful blindness allows us to forget that people in other parts of the world are being tried as criminals for simply trying to raise awareness on a matter that is crippling their country’s healthcare system.
In Zambia, a ban on pornography is apparently being used for the purpose of personal retribution and political oppression, where Chansa Kabwela (the news editor of the country’s largest independent newspaper, “The Post”) has been arrested and put on trial for “distributing obscene images.”
Kabwela, in an attempt to call for an end to a nurses’ strike that has crippled Zambia’s healthcare system, sent two photos to the country’s vice-president, its health minister, and various human rights groups. The two photos were of a woman, who had earlier been turned away from two medical clinics, giving birth without medical help. The “obscene images” contained in the photos were of the woman’s baby in the breech position, with its shoulders, legs and arms emerging from the woman’s vagina, but with the head still inside. By the time the woman was finally admitted to a hospital, it was too late for their surgeons to save the child, which died of suffocation.
Kabwela, who states she was given the photos by the woman’s relatives, sent the photos to the aforementioned government officials. Within a short matter of time, Zambia’s President Rupiah Banda demanded a police investigation, calling the pictures “pornographic.” Quickly thereafter, Kabwela was arrested for “distributing obscene material with intent to corrupt public morals,” a charge that carries a possible five-year prison term.
However, multiple organizations are claiming that the trial is likely not about the photographs at all. According to a “BBC News” story, the independent newspaper that Kabwela works for, “has relentlessly pursued the government with allegations of corruption, and the president has made no secret of his dislike of the paper.”
After reading this story, I stopped for a moment and took note of all the freedoms I have nonchalantly taken for granted on daily basis; freedoms, that I generally don’t think twice about, like expressing my opinion about the government without fear of criminal charges being brought against me, and being able to look at porn if I should so choose (though I can’t ever recall an instance where I looked at images of a woman in need of serious medical attention, due to a breeching infant, and considered those images “titillating,” “pornographic,” or “obscene” . . . usually I see those images on “Lifetime” when I’m trying to eat dinner, which I subsequently lose my appetite for, which leads me to quietly remind myself never to flip past that channel at 7 pm again . . . EVER).