The Supreme Court has slapped Rainbow Newspaper editor-in-chief Derrick Sinjela with one year six months simple imprisonment for contempt of court.

And MISA Vice Chairperson Hyde Haguta has described the judgement as a sad development in the media fraternity, adding that journalists should not be intimidated but remain strong by ensuring that they are professional in their work.

Sinjela was cited for Contempt of court following his remarks on the Supreme Court’s decision on Savenda Vs Stanbic Bank Case, where he accused the judges of corruption and bribery following their decision in favour of Stanbic Bank.

The remarks were published in his Rainbow Newspaper between April and May 2018, titled “Zambian Supreme Court verdict in the Savenda vs Stanbic Bank is questionable” says COMESA, SADC journalist.

He had apologised to the court after pleading guilty saying he made errors in his news judgment by repeatedly criticising Stanbic Bank and attacking the judges.

However, when the matter came up for judgement, Thursday, Deputy Chief Justice Marvin Mwanamwambwa, who sat with judges Gregory Phiri, Evans Hamaundu, Royda Kaoma and Nigel Mutuna sentenced him to a custodial sentence of 18 months simple imprisonment with effect from yesterday.

He however, remarked that had Sinjela not admitted to the charge, they would have given him a much heavier sentence.

“So that’s your sentence. He is now a prisoner, take him to jail!” Justice Mwanamwambwa ordered.

And speaking after the judgment, MISA Vice Chairperson Hyde Haguta described the judgement as a sad development for the media fraternity and a free press.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s a sad day [and] it’s very difficult to talk. For us in the media fraternity, that’s puts us at very awkward position in terms of reporting issues in the way we should see them. We are constrained to speak.

He urged journalists to remain strong, ensure that they were professional in their work and had correct facts, adding that the judgement should not scare them from reporting on issues.

“That’s the only way that we are going to be safe. This should not scare us from reporting issues the way they are supposed to be professionally, provided that we are on fact, accurate, honest and balanced. Journalism is about freedom of expression, its about giving citizens a platform to be heard. We are a watchdog for the citizens and in doing so, we are compelled to give accurate and correct information in whatever we are doing. Let’s work hard, lets not be intimidated. let’s have the fear to report wrongly but not fear to report a story that’s correct,” he said.

And SACCORD executive director Boniface Chembe reiterated that it was a sad day that required a lot of digestion.

He hoped that going forward, what had transpired in the last few weeks would not deter individuals who wanted to continue engaging in human rights work in the country.

Meanwhile, GEARS Initiative Executive Director McDonald Chipenzi said he admired Sinjela’s courage because if it were others, they would not have been in court.

“That is great courage and shows that what he believed in, he has lived up to it until this day. This also shows that we have to be careful now, either to be silent inside court or outside, but at the end of the day we have to protect our rights to expression,” he said.

Sinjela’s sentence comes barely a few weeks after SANAC executive director Gregory Chifire, who is currently in exile, was slapped with a six year jail sentence for contempt of Court regarding his remarks in Savenda Vs Stanbic Bank Case.