updated 7/20/2009 12:44:34 PM ET 2009-07-20T16:44:34

Zambia's Catholic bishops and the International Press Institute are condemning the arrest of an editor who illustrated the consequences of a health workers' strike by e-mailing officials photos of a woman giving birth in the streets of the capital.

Chansa Kabwela, editor of the independent Post newspaper, was arrested July 13 and charged with circulating obscene pictures to government officials and aid groups.

The Post never published the photos, but Kabwela said she wanted to make Zambian policy makers aware of the impact of the strike. Health workers who went on strike in May returned to work last month after the government promised to consider their demands for more pay.

Kabwela is out on bail and due to appear for trial next month. She faces up to five years in prison.

In a pastoral letter released over the weekend at the end of a five-day meeting in Lusaka, the bishops urged the government "to move away from politicking and diverting attention to non-issues." They said, "The government must clamp down on violence against the media."

In a separate weekend statement, the International Press Institute accused Zambia's government of using "trumped up criminal charges" to intimidate and harass journalists.

The institute's director, David Dadge, said Kabwela should be applauded for bringing to the attention of the Ministry of Health the plight of the woman giving birth unassisted in a public place.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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