Former State House chief policy analyst in the Levy Mwanawasa administration, Jack Kalala, says the Patriotic Front has gone too far with its autocratic way of governance.

And NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili says he will engage his alliance partners to mobilise a marching protest against the government’s decision to suspend the broadcasting licence for Prime TV.

The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) yesterday announced a 30-day suspension of the private stations’ licence for unprofessional conduct, causing an instant public outrage.

Commenting on the development, Kalala said it was regrettable that President Lungu’s government was only tolerating media that sings praises.

“This is not the kind of leadership that we had during our time in State House. We allowed the Newspapers [or] the media to operate freely. For your own information, President Mwanawasa preferred to read The Post newspaper which was critical of government than Daily Mail and Times [of Zambia] because it’s from the criticism that we learnt were we were going wrong to be able to correct and do the right thing. But these people want to be praised all the time, it’s not right for the country.”

“Leave Prime TV alone. IBA should not be dancing to the tune of Davies Mwila, PF is a political party. This prime TV is an independent institution, it’s a company on its own and the people who have formed that company have got the right to operate as they want, of course within the law. You can not accuse them of being biased, what about ZNBC? We pay levies to ZNBC but they don’t cover the opposition, but have they suspended ZNBC? Not at all. Times of Zambia, have they suspended their licence? What about Daily Mail? They have seen that people are not listening to ZNBC and they are not reading the Times of Zambia and Daily mail. So PF wants to take over control of all the media in Zambia which is not fair to the people of Zambia.”

Kalala said the PF had gone too far with its dictatorship, warning those in government to remember that they would not stay in power for ever.

“The PF have gone too far. They closed down The Post because they did not like what it was publishing, which is wrong. And now they want also to close Prime TV and close every other media that is not towing their line. That is wrong. It’s paining us. When I was in State House I did not like everything that The Post published, but I would write a response which they would publish, we never saw the need to close The Post. It’s the same with Prime TV, those in State House cannot use IBA to close down media that they don’t like. This is total autocracy, it is unacceptable,” he said.

“It is not for PF to insist that they should remain in power no, they should let the people decide on their own and the only way they can let the people decide is by allowing other political players to freely operate. And the media is key to that process. ZNBC should cover all the political parties both the opposition and the ruling party equally like they do in UK. In Zambia we pay levy, the people who belong to the opposition pay levy to ZNBC, and so they are entitled to be covered. So what the PF should do is to be democratic. Being democratic means accepting that they are not going to be in power forever.”

He regretted helping the PF to form government in 2011, saying the party has turned Zambia into a dictatorship.

“We didn’t expect MMD to remain forever in power. In fact, I even helped to campaign for PF in 2011. George Chellah can confirm, I received Mr Sata in Lufwanyama. [This] is not the same PF that I helped to get to power, It’s totally different. It has become autocratic and it is wrong. They want to be the only party to rule, no. Sometimes we even feel guilty that we removed UNIP [from power]? because today President Lungu wouldn’t have been in power. Why should he not allow other people to become presidents?” asked Kalala.

“If Rupiah Banda had behaved the way Lungu is behaving, I don’t think PF would have won the elections in 2011. They wouldn’t have formed government. But he allowed [and] gave freedom to the political parties to operate the way they wanted.”

Meanwhile Kambwili said the opposition alliance would soon be applying for a permit to conduct a demonstration against the suspension of Prime TV licence.

“This will not be allowed and it will be met with maximum resistance. I will be talking to the alliance partners so that we can apply for a permit to demonstrate against the closure of Prime TV. So we are asking the Independence Broadcasting Authority and, of course, the government to rescind their decision of suspending the license for Prime TV. And if you have followed the chronological order in which these things have been happening, look at the ZNBC coverage, it has been so biased to the extent that there has been a lot of misleading statements that come from ZNBC on both national issues and on issues concerning the opposition. IBA has never taken any action against ZNBC, when you watch ZNBC from beginning to end, it’s all either government officials or PF cadres. Whenever the opposition has a rally, ZNBC will never cover them,” Kambwili said.

He warned PF to stop intimidating and interfering with operations of private media.

“Mwila first and foremost chased the Prime TV journalists but where was IBA to defend Prime TV journalists? PF must stop interfering with these professional institutions because this is clearly an indication that from the anger that Mwila showed against the Prime TV, they were only waiting for an opportunity where they could actually pounce on Prime TV and what has happened is unfortunate. If President Edgar Lungu means well and he is a leader of this country who wants to leave a legacy, let him direct the ministry of Information and IBA to immediately lift the suspension of Prime TV. The media is a fourth estate and the citizens of this country are entitled to information of what is happening in the country,” said Kambwili.

“Intimidating the media in that way is retrogressive. Those should be politics of the 70s. So we stand with Prime TV and we are going to do everything within our means to try and help Prime TV have their license ban lifted. And I think the best way is to have a peaceful demonstration from town all the way up to Mass Media complex and present a petition to the IBA managing director. And the PF government must be ashamed for this decision that they have taken,” said Kambwili.