Information and Broadcasting Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo is breathing fire on foreign diplomats calling for the lifting of the 30-day suspension slapped on Prime TV.

And Kasolo says ZNBC journalists fear ruling party officials, hence they cannot feature opposition political party leaders in the national broadcaster.

Speaking when he featured on Radio Phoenix ‘Let the People Talk’ program, Kasolo said some diplomats were busy interfering in Zambia’s internal affairs when they had failed to talk about issues of media violations in their countries, citing U.S President Donald Trump’s fight with private media in that country.

“People must realise, when people are condemning us with what we are doing, you know even condemning PF for banning (Prime TV). Fox News has been banned from going to Democratic [Party] events in America, they have been banned. There is also a BBC Journalist that President Trump has banned from attending his briefs, now that’s ok ah? But here PF says they don’t want one news outlet, it heavily blows big and you even find foreign dignitaries talking about, ‘oh no, you can’t ban this, you can’t do that’ how about their own countries? What happens there? Why can’t they talk about what happens in their own countries? We don’t even talk about what happens in their countries, it annoys me because we are a sovereign, independent state. We should do things the way we want,” Kasolo said.

“There is freedom of expression of the media here, you know, Zambia is the freest in Africa. I can assure you, you can’t write and do things we do here in Zambia and get away with it in other African countries, I can assure you. Just go next door, any of the neighbouring states, go and write anything against the head of state, see what will happen to you within minutes. But you know, let’s also not mix up bad journalism with freedom of the press, freedom of expression. How do you go out in the public and start insulting people? How do you go out in the public and start alleging things against people who don’t even know you? And you say that’s freedom of expression? No, it’s not.”

And Kasolo said it’s a fact that if ZNBC journalists features opposition leaders, ruling party politicians would jump on them with victimisation.

“ZNBC needs to improve, needs to up its game. When I visited there, if you saw and heard what I was saying, I was saying ZNBC needs to climb back to the pedicle where it was before. ZNBC must be believed, when they say something, people must say this is fact. At the moment, ZNBC seems to be chasing news, so something happens and then they chase and report it. I don’t report the journalists at ZNBC, you know what it is, they fear bringing on opposition leaders to interview and so on, because they fear that if they do, the politicians in the ruling party will jump on them, that’s a fact, they fear for their jobs,” Kasolo said.

He expressed concern that ZNBC news is no longer trusted as a result of bias.

“I was there two days ago, I was speaking to the director of programs and also my good friend who runs the Sunday Interview, Mr. Zulu (Grevazio) and I said to them ‘look, it’s about time we started, improving on the outlook and image of ZNBC. We must allow the opposition to come on certain programs and also air out their views, we must allow debate between opposition and ruling party MPs and ministers. And I know that my Honourable Minister (Dora) Siliya is very keen that we do that, we have discussed that at length. We need to bring ZNBC to where it is a trusted news source, at the moment everyone is suspicious of them, they are looking at them and say no they are biased. His Excellency the President has stated himself and he is on record that why should I be Edgar, Edgar, Edgar, in the news, why can’t they bring other people on, including the opposition. You know that president doesn’t fear competition, it makes him better, it makes his party better,” he said.

Kasolo also said IBA had offered to train Prime TV journalists for free in a bid to make them professional.

“We will freely train their journalists, we will freely look at how they cast their news and the like. We’ll freely train them in understanding the IBA Act. By the way, they have never come back to tell us when we can go in and do that (train their journalists) but as IBA we are ready to do that. And you know all this shouting about ‘no re-instate us’ let us not waste time, you know this time came be better utilised by doing what the IBA has suggested. Prime TV would come out of this, a better station if they do what we suggested, they will become a lot more professional. And you know I am not saying they be supporting the PF or the ruling government, all I am saying is that they should be fair in their reporting, they should be factual, they should not be peddling lies and also insinuation, news is news, it is what it is, don’t give your opinions!” said Kasolo.