Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) says it is hypocritical for IBA to suspend Prime TV’s broadcasting license when the Authority has elected to remain silent on glaring unbalanced coverage and opinionated news by ZNBC.

In a statement, TIZ Chapter president Rueben Lifuka said whilst there were some flaws in the conduct of some media houses, there was no justification for IBA to take unnecessary and openly biased draconian measures.

“Under the PF administration, the space for the independent media to do its work, continues to shrink. The PF government has persistently sought ways of undermining the work of independent media outlets which are perceived to be overly critical of the regime. This betrays an important fundamental which made Zambians rise against the Kenneth Kaunda government under UNIP. We fought for a return to Multi Party Democracy so that we could claim our inherent rights and freedoms. The has a critical role in informing, educating and entertaining the people, and indeed the media should discharge their functions in a professional and ethical manner. However, professionalism and ethical conduct of the media should not be equated with conformity with one narrative or patriotism. The independent media in particular, has to serve as a counterbalance to the propaganda usually churned out through the public broadcaster,” Lifuka stated.

“TIZ wishes to categorically condemn the decision by the Independent Broadcasting Authority to suspend the license of Prime TV for 30 days. It is interesting if not sad that the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services and Chief Government Spokesperson, whose Permanent Secretary is the Chairperson of the Board of the IBA, claims to be ignorant of the reasons for the suspension of the license of Prime TV, and yet IBA issued a Press Statement on March 4 2019, giving the reasons for their decision. We want to make it clear that we do not condone any acts by media houses to incite violence and this should not be allowed to take root in our country. But we find it hypocritical that IBA is prepared to take drastic measures against a few media houses and elect to be silent about glaring unbalanced coverage and opinionated news which is the main feature of the public broadcaster.”

Lifuka reminded the IBA Board of the noble intentions of the Authority as highlighted in the Independent Broadcasting Act.

“We do appreciate that there are some flaws in the conduct of some media houses but this is not justification for the IBA to take unnecessary and openly biased draconian measures. The question is why has IBA failed to act on numerous public complaints about the unbalanced coverage and opinionated news by ZNBC, inspite of the provision in the law which gives IBA the powers to ‘receive, investigate and decide on complaints concerning broadcasting services including public broadcasting services.’ But we also wish to take this opportunity to remind IBA Board and government of the noble intentions of this body as highlighted in the Independent Broadcasting Act. This body exists primarily to promote a pluralistic broadcasting industry in Zambia. This is in recognition of the simple fact that in a democracy like ours, there should be tolerance for divergent views,” he said.

“The opening up of the airwaves was intended to accommodate the different views and demands for information by citizens. No one should even contemplate trying to legislate for one common opinion among citizens because it will be an exercise in futility unless, by some stroke of misfortune, we revert to the inglorious days of the ‘One Party Participatory Democracy.’ Different media houses serve different audiences and the citizenry should not be subjected to one source of information. The IBA Board has published its core organisational values and it is our expectation that the Board, Management and Staff, live and fulfil these values. For instance, the IBA proposes that it will be Objectivity in its dealings and this will be seen in the professional and honest conduct and execution of its duties in order to instil trust. Unfortunately, the decision taken by IBA on Prime TV does not instil trust and public confidence, instead it raises questions on the independence and relevance of the Authority. IBA should focus on promoting and nurturing nascent private media houses.”

TIZ further called upon the IBA to immediately lift the suspension and allow Prime Television to operate freely without any intimidation and outside influence.

“We would also like to appeal to those in authority especially the political players to allow the media to operate freely and objectively because a free media is key for any country to achieve meaningful development especially in the fight against corruption. Our further appeal is to the media fraternity to remember their obligation to maintain the highest professional ethics and standards. The public would like to access credible information at all times and the media should not betray this trust and responsibility to be the mirror of society. There cannot be any substitute for professional journalism and each media house should invest in building strong credentials which are above reproach,” stated Lifuka.