CHIEF government spokesperson Dora Siliya has insisted that the Patriotic Front was not elected to storm radio stations saying there are proper channels of lodging in complaints about any content.
And Siliya has advised health workers to focus on saving lives instead of preoccupying themselves with allowances.
Meanwhile, Siliya says government’s decision to reopen schools strictly for exam classes is right because no one knows how long COVID-19 will be around.
On Prime TV, Siliya says she has nothing new to say, insisting that she could not attend to the television’s appeal against the IBA’s decision to cancel its license because there was no existing license to begin with.
Speaking when she featured on a special program on Radio Phoenix, Monday, Siliya insisted that PF cadres embarrassed government by disrupting UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s programme in Chinsali.
When asked by a caller why the PF government wanted to leave a bad record of closing media hoses, Siliya said government would act when media houses broke the law.
“Just like we don’t want PF cadres to break the law against Chinsali and Mpika radio, we also don’t want media houses to break the law. And my job is to ensure that I defend the law from both sides. Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has not received a report to say ‘no Mr Hichilema was demeaning that is why we wanted him out of the radio’ but even if he was demeaning, there are processes in which a media house can be sanctioned by the IBA. The IBA has done that by withdrawing the licenses, by closing radio stations even TV stations if they break the law. I have nothing new to say on Prime TV. I think the matter has been interrogated and my decision was simple in that I had no opportunity to even attend to the appeal because according to the law, there was no licensee for me to attend to,” Siliya responded.
Siliya said the PF had a lot of work to do in educating its grassroots on how the media works.
“We are supposed to be a country of laws for us to be able to live together across religious divide, political divide, across tribal lines we all have agreed that we live in this nation state called Zambia. So first, we are Zambians so we have to obey the laws of the country as captured in our own constitution. The public’s right to know is operationalized in modern society through news rooms, through the practice of journalism. Sometimes we have to accept that in big political institutions, even in the PF there are people who are a bit overzealous. Nobody has the right to issue instructions to radios and say ‘radio cannot do this or do that’,” Siliya said.
“We must also recognize that the constitution provides for individuals to freely express themselves. And unless there is a specific grievance against what somebody is saying on the radio station, I think it is important that we observe the laws of the country. The only regulatory body for radios is the IBA, it is not the PF provincial chairman and I think as a party, we will have to do quite a lot to educate our colleagues in the provinces that the radio operates under an act of parliament and the IBA issues this license. We are the very government that is elected by the people to look after their public interests and in this case, government is a representative of all the citizens of this country and one of the things they didn’t elect the PF government for is to storm radio stations.”
She said it was regrettable that the District Commissioner gave unlawful instructions that radio stations in Muchinga Province were not allowed to feature opposition leaders.
“Government has strongly condemned the attack on radio station in Muchinga and Chinsali. It doesn’t matter whether it was Mr Hichilema or anybody for that matter even any ordinary citizen if they are going to go to a radio to exercise the right to express themselves, government will defend that right including the right of that media house. It is extremely regrettable that the DC was giving unlawful instructions because the media houses are managed by IBA,” Siliya said.
And Siliya told health workers that government was more concerned about saving lives at the moment rather than their allowances.
“Well, when people go to work as doctors, as nurses and they work in the lab, [it] is because they have decided to join a profession. And this profession they join because they feel so passionately that they want to save people’s lives. I do recall that the Minister of Health and the President have mentioned that ‘look, these people are going beyond duty because of coronavirus and that they should be recognized and pay them their allowances.’ And I am sure that the Minister of Heath is working very hard to ensure that this is done. But the priority is to remember that they have jobs which they get paid for all the time because this is the profession they chose and they made an oath that they are going to save lives,” Siliya said.
“And the rest of the society are indebted to them because they are brave to get into a profession where they have to deal with saving people’s lives. And we don’t want at this point of time when we are in the midst of saving lives that we should be preoccupied with who [should] be paid what and when because that is expected from government. But for now, let us focus that these people that are doing an important job and government, what we want to do is ensure that we have what they need to do the job particularly drugs and PPES. All other issues I am sure the Minister of Health is addressing them.”
Meanwhile, Siliya assured parents that government was not using school going children as a litmus test.
“Yes, numbers have gone high but they are stilled in the sense that they are coming from a specific area, in Nakonde and we know what transpires in Nakonde because is it a border town linked to Dar-es-Salaam which is our busiest transit route for goods to come in and out of Zambia. Because of the disease prevalence in Tanzania, these numbers are localized in one area and are very high but they are not representative of the national prevalence of the disease where so far, we have only had seven deaths, and so many recoveries and we should feel comforted that government is doing everything possible to make sure you have the information and you know how to prevent the disease,” said Siliya.
“We are not using the children as a litmus test, we are saying let us try to live within the means of this disease. That is why we have said the other children should still stay at home. My disappointment is that when government says the children should stay at home, what I have seen is a lot of children on the streets then I ask where are the parents? Because that is when the children will get the disease because they are not at home when they should be home. When they go to school, it will be a controlled environment for them, they are even at a lesser risk.”
She hoped General Education Minister David Mabumba would explain how schools would be managed before June 1.