Zambia has a lot of work to do in embracing divergent views because the private news media are still being viewed as a proponent of the opposition political fraternity, says the US Embassy’s public affairs officer Sean McIntosh.
And McIntosh says the US government remains hopeful that Prime Television will be given back its broadcasting license by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in due course.
Commenting on the ongoing 30-day suspension the IBA slapped on Prime TV, McIntosh bemoaned that private news media outlets in the country are continuously being misconstrued as being members of the opposition political fraternity rather than a platform for divergent views.
Asked if the IBA applies the same treatment to the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), the country’s national public broadcaster, as it gives to private entities, McIntosh noted that the latter tended to be perceived as part of the broader opposition political fraternity.
“I believe your premise is a fair assessment, not just from my point of view, but I think any rational person can see that, State-owned media are under different rules than independent media. And, often times, as in many countries around the world, if you are an independent outlet, you are painted as being the voice or proponent or advocate or even bank-rolled by the opposition. It’s kind of a hard nut to crack in that regard,” McIntosh told journalists in Lusaka.
“But I think there is a lot of work to be done here, there’s a lot of things that are possible. And if the Information Ministry and other authorities are really genuinely worried and looking at the revision of the IBA Act and the ZNBC Act, then, I am optimistic that there are some great things are in-store and that, there will be a much more level playing field for the media here in Zambia.”
He reiterated that the suspension of Prime TV’s broadcasting license was a threat to freedom of speech.
“We would like an urgent reconsideration of the suspension because the act in itself shows a very strong signal that threatens press freedoms. We believe in inherent fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and the press. So, with this suspension, it’s of grave concern,” McIntosh noted.
But he maintained that the US government remained hopeful that Prime TV would eventually be given back its broadcasting license by the IBA in due course.
“So, it is our hope that the IBA make a quick, immediate re-consideration of the action because, ultimately, we want freedom of the press; we want fundamental freedoms to be safeguarded,” said McIntosh.