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Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Zambia 'porn' reporter acquitted

Chansa Kabwela, news editor of The Post (image from Post website)
Chansa Kabwela sent the photos to the vice-president, among others

A Zambian journalist has been acquitted of pornography charges after sending officials pictures of a woman giving birth in a hospital car park.

The incident happened during a nurses' strike and the baby died. Zambian President Rupiah Banda had described the photos as pornographic.

Chansa Kabwela said she had sent them in protest at the effects of the strike that paralysed the country's hospitals.

She would have faced a five-year jail sentence if convicted.

This victory to me is a victory for those that suffered during the strike
Chansa Kabwela

But the magistrate in the case said he had heard nothing to indicate that the photographs were obscene.

Outside the court, Ms Kabwela - who is news editor for The Post newspaper - described the verdict as a victory for everyone affected by the strike.

"This victory to me is a victory for those that suffered during the strike," she said, quoted by South Africa's Sapa news agency.

"I was confident that I would be acquitted."

Graphic pictures

Ms Kabwela did not publish the controversial photographs, but sent copies to a number of prominent people and women's rights groups, along with a letter calling for the strike to be brought to an end.

The BBC's Jo Fidgen in Lusaka says the pictures are graphic, showing a woman in the process of giving birth to a baby in the breech position - when the baby's legs come out first.

Its shoulders, legs and arms are visible, but the head has not yet been delivered.

The photos were apparently taken in the grounds of Lusaka's main hospital.

The nurses were on strike and the woman had been turned away from two clinics.

By the time doctors operated, the baby had suffocated.

Ms Kabwela says she was given the photographs by the woman's relatives.

Pornography is illegal in Zambia and Ms Kabwela was arrested soon afterwards and charged with distributing obscene material with intent to corrupt public morals.

In her view, and in the view of campaigners for press freedom, the case is political.

The Post has pursued the government with allegations of corruption and the president has made no secret of his dislike of the paper, our correspondent says.



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