The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has asked government to review Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA)’s decision to suspend Prime Television’s broadcasting license for 30 days over alleged unprofessional conduct.
In a statement, HRC spokesperson Mweelwa Muleya expressed concern that the consequences of Zambia being viewed as a human rights violator had a far-reaching negative impact on the socio-economic development of the country and on citizens’ general welfare.
“After engaging various stakeholders, the Human Rights Commission strongly recommends that the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) should consider lifting the suspension of the broadcasting license for Prime Television Station. The suspension of the broadcasting license of Prime TV for 30 days is excessive punishment that is likely to seriously undermine the growth of the privately-owned television station as well as deprive millions of its viewers of their democratic right to access divergent information and views as required in a democratic state. Zambia has a relatively good record of having established a robust liberalised media industry in the quest to promote free expression of, and access to divergent views, information and opinions as a matter of human rights and good governance. It would be extremely unfortunate if such a record of human rights and good governance was undermined by a decision such as suspending the broadcasting license of the privately-run television station when the matter could easily have been amicably resolved in better way,” Muleya stated.
“The Commission is, therefore, confident that the government will listen to numerous voices pleading for its public interest intervention and will accordingly review the decision made by IBA. As a national human rights institution, the Commission wishes to advise that freedom of expression and media freedom are common parameters of assessing a country’s human rights and good governance record. It is, therefore, in the national interest that the government must look at a broader governance picture in resolving this matter. The consequences of a country being viewed as a human rights violator, whether true or not, has far-reaching negative impact on the socio-economic development of the country and on the general welfare of the citizens at large. Therefore, the common good must override any sectional interests in resolving the complaints against Prime TV.”
HRC advised the IBA to focus on building capacity for all broadcasting institutions in Zambia in order to contribute to a professional, pluralistic and diverse broadcasting industry as a hallmark of deepening democracy, respect for human rights and good governance.
“While appreciating IBA’s mandate of safeguarding the rights, freedoms and reputation of others from unprofessional broadcasting, it is the Commission’s strong view that IBA should continue executing its legislative mandate in a manner consistent with the fundamental human rights principles of non-discrimination and equal protection and benefit of the law. To this effect, IBA is encouraged to be seen to be building the capacity of all broadcasting institutions in Zambia in order to contribute to a professional, pluralistic and diverse broadcasting industry as a hallmark of deepening democracy, respect for human rights and good governance,” stated Muleya.
“Finally, the Commission further wishes to call upon all stakeholders, particularly human rights defenders and the media fraternity, to effectively claim their right to a robust pluralistic and diverse media industry in Zambia that will fearlessly, but factually, and fairly mirror the diverse socio-economic, cultural and political heritage of the country for sustainable inclusive development.”