Prime TV Managing Director Gerald Shawa has charged that the Independent Broadcasting Authority seems to be acting on political directives and statements, saying its request for Prime TV’s editorial policy and broadcast recordings is ill-timed.
And Shawa says PF Secretary General Davies Mwila’s accusations that Prime TV is biased towards the UPND, is a perception which he created himself when he banned the TV station from covering the ruling party.
Last week Monday, PF Secretary General Davies Mwila wrote a letter to Shawa, accusing the media house of biased coverage and unethical reportage of political opinions during Prime TV’s main evening news on February 9, this year.
He stated that on that day, Prime TV broadcasted a story with a wrong and provocative headline captioned: ‘Armed State Police and PF cadres chase of HH in thick forest took eight hours as IG plans to institute inquiry’.
“We accordingly wish to bring to your attention the Prime TV 19:30hrs main news bulletin of Saturday February 9, 2019 which included a story with an erroneous and incendiary headline captioned as follows: ‘Armed State Police and PF cadres chase of HH in thick forest took eight hours as IG plans to institute inquiry. The story alleged that PF cadres placed the life of Mr Hakainde Hichilema in mortal danger; further alleging that we attempted to assassinate the opposition leader by firing weapons at him and hunting him into the bush with a view to gunning him down in a dramatic human hunt that lasted eight hours,” he stated.
Mwila charged that the said story was highly inaccurate and irresponsible because Prime TV showed no evidence to corroborate PF cadres allegedly firing at or pursuing the UPND leader, Hakainde Hichilema.
Mwila further accused the media house of blatant bias towards the opposition UPND.
He copied the letter to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Chairperson of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), PF Central Committee and MISA Zambia.
Meanwhile, IBA Director General Josephine Mapoma also wrote another letter to Shawa, on Thursday, requesting for the TV station’s editorial policy and broadcast recordings.
“You are hereby requested to furnish the authority with; all Prime Television news bulletins including news analysis segments aired from February 1 to 13 and episodes of the Oxygen of Democracy program aired from January 28 to February 13, 2019. Further Prime Television is required to furnish the authority with its current editorial policy. The material requested must be availed on or before February 18,” read the letter.
However, in Prime TV’s reply to Mapoma, Shawa charged that IBA’s request was ill-timed and politically motivated.
He recounted some of the political attacks against Prime TV by some PF officials.
“It is our considered view that while the Authority is mandated by the IBA Act 2010 and 2017 to Post-Monitor broadcast institutions, the timing is rather perceived highly politically motivated for the following reasons: (I) That the request comes barely after Public attacks, and public chase of our Journalists by PF Secretary General Davies Mwila who also barred Prime Television from covering all PF functions. (ii) That our Minister of Information and Broadcasting Dora Siliya on February 13, 2019 at a briefing raised sensational reporting allegations of the Sesheke violence against Prime TV which allegations have been followed by your request,” he stated.
“(iii) PF Deputy Media Director Antonio Mwanza was quoted by some online blog hereinafter referred to as ‘TP News’ as saying “Prime Television must be closed … the IBA has already been directed to revoke the license … .” (iv) Minister of Lands and Natural Hon Jean Kapata is also on record of having threatened to cause an attack on Prime TV.”
Shawa charged that IBA seemed to be acting on political directives as opposed to section 38 of the IBA principle Act.
“We would also want to seek clarification as to whether the decision by the IBA will not jeopardize the process already commenced by Mr Mwila or compromise themselves in that they seem to be now acting on political directives and political statements and not in accordance with section 38 of the IBA principle Act, in that their request come barely after public announcements are made referring to the IBA to consider acting. While we respect the law that establishes the IBA, we are aggrieved that any further decision that IBA will have to take will be politically induced. As a law abiding broadcast institution, we have decided to avail you the said request. Please, find enclosed herein the materials as requested.”
And responding to Mwila’s letter on Saturday, Shawa reminded the PF SG of the press briefing held on January 26, where he publicly barred Prime Television from covering all the party activities.
He added that although Mwila announced to the public that Prime TV should never cover his party, the TV station still continued to cover PF .
“You further went on various forums intimating that you had no regret over your actions and did not need Prime TV. Note that even if you announced to the public that Prime TV should never cover your party, Prime TV, being a professional body still continues to cover your political party to the level of even playing your advertorials for Sesheke by elections,” he stated.
Shawa further stated that the story that Mwila referred to as highly inaccurate and irresponsible was backed by footage and pictures showing State police and PF cadres, together with Hichilema and his officials being pursued.
“Note that the caption you have referred to as ” Armed state police and PF cadres chase of HH in thick forest took 8hrs as IG plans to institute inquiry”, are all backed by footage and pictures showing State Police and PF cadres, together with the opposition leader and his officials being pursued, and Prime TV is not the only media which reported a similar event,” he stated.
Shawa stated that the TV station awaited Mwila’s advice on whether his ban was still standing.