Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says there is nothing sinister about the suspension of Prime Television’s broadcasting license, insisting that everybody deserves to be corrected whenever they error.

And Siliya says government is hoping that public transport operators will also adjust downwards transport fares following the reduction of fuel prices announced by the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) last week.

Speaking when she addressed a press briefing in Lusaka, Wednesday, Siliya, who told journalists that she had not yet seen IBA’s reasons for suspending the license, said that there was nothing special about Prime TV because every media institution deserved to be punished wherever they do wrong.

She also castigated the Church for coming out so loud in their demand to have the suspension of Prime TV lifted, arguing that there was nothing special about Prime TV, as it was just a medium like several others whose licences had been suspended.

“First of all, let me state that IBA is the responsible body for managing media houses so that they adhere to the code of conduct. I am not aware yet or have not taken site of the reasons that have been put forward by the IBA to suspend the Prime TV broadcasting license. I just wish to believe that based on their judgement, they [IBA] must have reasonable cause. I am still awaiting the report on the reasons that have been advanced by the IBA. For those who are commenting, I hope that they have seen the reasons, I would like to believe that they are making informed comments and not ignorant ones! But as far as I am concerned, it’s very difficult for now to make a comment because it will be an ignorant one, as I haven’t yet taken sight of the reasons that have been advanced by the IBA Board. So, it is my wish and hope that everybody first waits to see the reasons advanced so that we don’t make ignorant or emotional statements. I have not been around, I was in Livingstone and I have been busy with Cabinet and cluster meetings so I haven’t seen the report myself yet and I cannot make a comment yet,” Siliya said.

Asked if the presence of Ministry Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo at IBA as Chairman would compromise Prime TV’s process of appeal in any way, Siliya said denied the assertion, insisting that there was nothing special about Prime TV.

“First of all, I don’t think there is anything special about Prime TV. Government did not suspend in some cases, it revoked licenses! We withdrew licenses from Ngoma Radio in Luanshya and in Nyimba, a radio license was actually withdrawn. All what I have been made to believe is that a license for a radio in Kafue was suspended and Prime TV was also suspended. So, there is nothing special about Prime TV because there are about 115 radios and over 45 TV stations in this country. And like I said, I don’t know what the specific reasons for Prime TV or the other radio stations were, so I wouldn’t want to make an ignorant or emotional decision. I want to take sight of the reasons and then look at what the law provides for. And I have not yet seen an appeal from the any of the affected institutions,” Siliya said.

“Now, in every institution, just like in every family, there are ‘dos and don’ts’ and there are procedures. So, I would like to believe that the people at IBA must have grounds, and if there will be any appeals, there must be grounds. These are everyday administrative matters, if you have an accident every day with your car or the road license is not renewed, the RTSA can decide to take action or to provide for fines. These are normal administrative issues and there is nothing sinister about it! I just hope that those who are making comments are not making ignorant comments and that they have sight of the report because I haven’t seen it yet for me to say these are the reasons or not and that they are valid or not. And then the PS by virtue of being here [at the Ministry], is a member of the IBA Board anyway. So, it doesn’t take way [anything] in terms of the appeal; the appeal is to the office of the Minister and the assumption that these people are always sinister is a wrong assumption!”

And Siliya told the church mother bodies to stop making comments on issues they don’t understand.

“Let us make statements because we have taken sight of the report and we say: ‘I don’t like this and that’. So, until I take sight of the report, for me, I don’t want to make ignorant or emotional statements. As for the Church Mother Bodies, I don’t want only to hear about the Church Mother Bodies making statements when it’s Prime TV or politicians [affected]. I want to hear them make statements about youth issues, about jobs and about the scandal we had with the Lusaka Hustle [programme], I think the silence from the Church was very loud! So, I just hope that everybody is making an informed comment not an ignorant one,” she said.

Further, Siliya said government was expecting public transporters to slash bus fares following the reduction of fuel prices effected by the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) last week.

“I wish to take you back to the briefing I had a few weeks ago where I said that government was going to share the gains with the public, once the fuel (oil) prices internationally came down. You have seen that government has gone ahead to share with the people that gain by passing on the gain to the people, and what we are hoping for is that public transporters also can pass on the gain to the public because government worked through the ERB to reduce the prices to respond to the international oil prices. Our hope is that the public transporters can also share that gain with the public as well. I just wanted us to recall that this was an issue that came up in one of these press briefings on why the fuel prices at that time had gone up because of international oil prices and that now when the price has come down, government has responded positively,” she explained.

Meanwhile, Siliya called on Zambians to work with government to promote the film industry in order to provide the much-needed jobs.

“Government through ZNBC is a shareholder in Multi-choice and there, we have provided for content production on Zambezi Magic. And on our platform TopStar, there is a a platform for Zambian content and there is investment in the studios, which means there is demand for local content. So, the reason why we have to promote local content is because we don’t want to export jobs. Every time you watch a foreign film, you are exporting a job, instead of that job being provided here. Every time people are producing a film, it’s not only cameras and actors present, there are people who supply food; people who supply insurance; banking; phone facilities; wardrobes…all these are opportunities for Zambians to get into business,” said Siliya.

The briefing also attracted Youth, Sport and Child Development Minister Moses Mawere, who led a team of youthful film makers that had gone to meet the Minister of Information to launch the the Professional Film Makers Guild in Zambia, along with their interim chairman Lawrence Thompson.

And PF media director Sunday Chanda said many people who were condemning the closure of Prime TV did not understand the gravity of damage it was causing.

“Many of them did not even watch the Prime TV News Bulletin of 9th February 2019; yet, as per their custom of blind solidarity they have hurriedly criticised government just for the sake of it, without even thinking of the terrible consequences the over-hyped inflammatory story could have had in the nation. We also note that the Statement purported to be authored by three (3) Church Mother bodies only carries one signature instead of the usual customary three,” said Chanda.

“The gravity of fake and inflammatory broadcasting should not be under rated. Examples abound the world over of Media houses and journalists engaging in thoughtless and inaccurate, partisan and inflammatory reporting that have set nations ablaze.”