The Independent Broadcasting Authority has asked Prime TV to handover recordings of all news bulletins and discussion programs from August 7, 2016 to date.
Last week Thursday, Prime TV aired a story quoting a source who claimed that Mulenga, Rupiah Banda and others had paid off electoral officials to rig the 2016 election in favour of President Edgar Lungu.
The said source went further to challenge the people he implicated to sue him if he was lying.
In a letter dated October 06, 2017, IBA Director General Josephine Mapoma asked Prime TV proprietor Gerald Shawa to present himself before the licensing and compliance committee at the IBA offices for abrogating the conditions of section 29 (2) of the IBA Act today.
But in an interview with News Diggers! today, Prime TV news analyst Mark Simuwe disclosed that the station was only served with the letter today.
He revealed that Mapoma and other IBA directors asked Prime TV to surrender recordings of news and discussion programmes from three months ago.
“When we met, they just gave us the letter and requested that we give them recordings of news, Oxygen of Democracy (current affairs in-depth interview program) which airs every Monday. As at now, there is no charge. They are just hunting now for what will stand as non compliance. They want us to submit this by 11th October but we told them that the time frame in which to do this was too short because it is just three days from now. We were just served with the summon letter today,” said Simuwe.
“This is a serious attack on media freedom. It is also a demonstration of the collapse in the rule of law arising from some of the breaches that we have seen at face value as the matter is emerging. It is mere intimidation to cow down Prime Television and then we cannot preempt how the response is going to be as we have to sit down and look at what can be used as a defense. But you know, we can tell that this is a political battle and not a professional battle. We wish statutory bodies could be run by professionals. IBA is simply a pawn in the game. The people behind this are politicians.”
And Prime TV journalist Kalani Muchima claimed that information minister Kampamba Mulenga had told him that she would meet the IBA, ZICTA and State House to discuss the story after it aired.
“On the very day we aired the story, her line was off so we said there is no law which says that if I fail to get you I should not run a story and I knew this was a developing story and we were going to get hold of her. When the story ran, she called one of my colleagues to complain about why she wasn’t given a chance to be heard. So when we called her back the following day, she refused to comment she just said there was no truth in what was being reported but the best person to get a reaction from was Mwalilino who was being accused of getting the money. She said let him comment then I will comment later. I said ‘but you are also accused of handing out the money so we need to get your side of the story’, she said, ‘I have got nothing to say and I am very busy, right now I am going to parliament’,” said Kalani.
“I said I could wait for her at Parliament but she said she wasn’t interested she said ‘I am going to Parliament, from there I am going to have a meeting with the IBA, ZICTA and then State House’. We can only assume that all this is happening because she went to complain.”
But in a separate interview with News Diggers! today, Mulenga said it was malicious to insinuate that government was using the IBA to silence the private media.
“No no no! I have not even complained [to IBA]. You asked me that are you able to complain and I said ‘I can complain in my capacity as an individual’ but nobody knows, me I am not part of IBA. Why they have been summoned, and the letter I have seen is circulating on social media, I don’t know the content because I don’t sit on IBA board…IBA did not summon them because of me, why would IBA summon them because of me?” Mulenga asked.
“IBA is a regulator, even you if you have a complaint, you can go and put it forward. IBA is a professional l body and government will not muzzle the media in fact it has been this government that has been encouraging relations between the private media and government itself, so how does PF use the IBA to intimidate the media. I do not understand.”
She said she could not respond to the allegations of vote buying because the source was questionable.
“My dear when you look at the contents of that letter, even what has been circulating on social media, already they are saying the votes were buried in Kalulushi, why haven’t they gone to unbury those votes? The person who is complaining why hasn’t he gone to the law enforcers to log in a formal complaint? And for us we are not in hiding, I am not in hiding. I am here! So are we going to be responding to everything on social media? They said ‘honorable minister has stolen money for digital migration’, I go to the media and start [defending myself], no, I will be abusing the platform. It will be you people who will be saying you have a childish minister, she responds to everything. Let us be objective and report on things that people have said. I would never use my position to abuse the media, it is not true,” Mulenga said.
She also condemned Prime TV for not getting her side of the story before airing it as she was always available to the media.
And Mulenga clarified that ZICTA did not go to shut down Prime TV when they visited their offices on Friday but to switch off their analogue transmitters.
“I read that ZICTA went to shut them down, ZICTA did not go to shut them down my dear. We’ve been announcing that from the first of October, we are switching off analogue and we are going on into digital so people must comply. How does government come in and intimidate people? Were you not aware that we were going to switch off? And when we say we are switching off, and it was three months ago, they have been saying that ‘from 1st October, we will switch off, please comply’. And you know that the public signal distributors, or carrier today is Topstar isn’t it? So if we are going to allow Prime TV to stay on analogue and continue airing like that then are we being fair as government? We switch off others, others remain, is it being fair?” asked Mulenga.