IBA Director General Josephine Mapoma has given Prime Television a 14-day ultimatum to apologize to PF Secretary General Davies Mwila for what she terms as “biased reportage”.

Mapoma, in her correspondence with Prime TV, asked the TV station to also hold an in-house training session to teach its staff basic journalism ethics, principles and news script writing.

She has also since invited the TV network to a hearing, Thursday, at 11:00 hours in the IBA boardroom.

“We are in receipt of a letter dated 18th February, 2019, from the Patriotic Front Secretary General Mr Davies Mwila in which he complained of a biased and unethical reportage as captioned above. The complaint was escalated to the Authority by the Patriotic Front Secretary General after not been satisfied with your response in your letter dated 16th February, 2019. The complaint made reference to how your news bulletin on 9th February, 2019, was inaccurate, biased, unethical, inflammatory, sensational and misleading. We wish to mention that the allegations levelled against your station are serious and the Authority investigated the complaint in accordance with the IBA Act of 2002 Section 33 to 38, which provide the procedure for lodging and resolving complaints against broadcasting stations. The Authority is satisfied that the complaint is justified,” Mapoma stated, in a letter to Prime TV proprietor Gerald Shawa.

She stated that after investigating Mwila’s complaints about the TV station, it was concluded that Prime TV had made several breaches of the IBA Act as well as to its own editorial guidelines.

“The Authority did find that the 19:30 hours Prime TV news of 9th February, 2019, had several breaches to the IBA Act as well as the station’s own Editorial Guidelines. For example, the headline ‘UPND Leader Hakainde Hichilema’s life is still in danger in Western Province where State police and Patriotic Front cadres fired live ammunition at the UPND entourage and supporters on Friday.’[That headline] was sensational and likely to incite violence. The headline and the story had the potential to cause supporters of the UPND to be angered and rise against the police and the Patriotic Front members. The story was not balanced in the sense that it shows no other side of the story. This is to mean that the Patriotic Front’s voice was missing and the coverage lacked evidence to show that the station even attempted to speak to the Patriotic Front,” she argued.

Mapoma directed Prime TV to write a letter of apology to Mwila as well as to copy in the Authority.

“In view of the above, the Authority hereby directs you to write a letter of apology to the complainant, which must be copied to us. We expect this letter of apology to be executed within fourteen days. In addition, based on the provisions of the IBA Act of 2002, particularly Section 5 (2) (F), which sanctions the Authority to issue to any or all broadcasters, advisory opinion relating to broadcasting stations and ethical conduct in broadcasting, we wish to advise as follows: (a) Your quest for content or scoop should not at any time be at the expense of verifying facts; (b) Your headlines and news stories should not be sensational and biased; (c) Your news stories and sources must not be backed by facts and must be credible; and (d) You may wish to consider having an in-house training on basic journalism ethics and principles and news script writing,” she advised.

And Mapoma advised Prime TV to make peace with Mwila for the good of the community they both serve.

Meanwhile, Mapoma stated that an analysis of the TV station’s news bulletins and “Oxygen of Democracy” programme recordings revealed a lot of unprofessionalism.

“Analysis of submitted Prime TV news bulletins and Oxygen of Democracy Programme recordings has revealed presence of the following unprofessional elements: opinionated news; unbalanced coverage; material likely to incite violence and use of derogatory/unpalatable language,” stated Mapoma.