UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka has appealed to Zambians to join hands with his party to stop the unwarranted manoeuvres by the Patriotic Front to silence the independent media in the country.
In the UPND’s newsletter to News Diggers! Katuka noted that private media was already terrified and intimidated by the recent events involving Prime TV and some radio stations whose licenses were suspended.
He, therefore, called on Zambians to join hands with the opposition party to stop the unwarranted actions by the PF to gag the media.
“Already, as we write, the private media is very terrified and intimidated by the recent events involving Prime TV and some radio stations whose licenses have been suspended or revoked. Therefore, the Zambian people should join hands with the UPND to stop the unwarranted manoeuvres by the PF to muzzle the media in our country. It is an attempt to silence, not only the media, but anyone with dissenting views. It is also meant to cover up for all the corruption and looting of public resources from the Zambian people,” Katuka stated.
He observed that within the last two weeks, the PF government had made two contradictory policy pronouncements on the media.
Katuka explained that last month, Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo issued instructions to ZNBC to allow the opposition to feature on certain programmes, whereas his Minister, Dora Siliya was also reported to have hired services of a Chinese company to censor the same media.
“Within the last two weeks, the Patriotic Front government has made two contradictory policy pronouncements on media, which further buttresses our viewpoint that this is, indeed, a ‘chipantepante’ government. First, on March 12, 2019, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services Chanda Kasolo was quoted by the News Diggers! newspaper as issuing the following instruction to ZNBC: “We must allow the opposition to come on certain programmes 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 discussed at length,” saying this on Radio Phoenix,” Katuka stated.
“Alas, before the dust could settle and perhaps while the public media were still pondering on how to institutionalize Kasolo’s directive, the Ministry, this time through its highest ranking official, Dora Siliya, is reported as having hired services of a Chinese company – Global Electronics Technology Corporation (GETC) – effectively to censor the same media. This is under the pretext that the GETC ‘help’ would support IBA to “monitor” radio and TV content.”
Katuka argued that by taking this step, the PF government was clearly unhappy to see the broadcast media operating freely.
He added that the move to ‘monitor’ the broadcast media was totally unacceptable in both principle and practice.
“By taking this step, the PF government is clearly unhappy to see the broadcast media in the country operating freely. The move to ‘monitor’ the broadcast media is totally unacceptable in both principle and practice! In principle, it goes against the time-long standing principle of media freedom and editorial independence – both external and internal. In a democracy like ours, the media need the space to make their own decisions without ‘big brother’ watching over what they are doing on a daily basis,” Katuka stated.
He stated that Siliya’s announcement amounted to state censorship, which was unconstitutional.
Katuka stated that Siliya’s pronouncement also came at a time when the PF government had exhibited unprecedented appetite to silence the independent news media in Zambia.
“In practice, the announcement by Siliya amounts to state censorship. State censorship is a form of suppressing of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or ‘inconvenient.’ It is unconstitutional and Zambians must rise against these tendencies to muzzle their basic rights and freedoms to access and disseminate views and information of any type. The pronouncement also comes at a time when the PF government has exhibited unprecedented appetite to muzzle the media in the country,” stated Katuka.