MISA Zambia chapter chairperson Hellen Mwale has urged broadcast media houses in the country not to abide by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA)’s directive to have them submit all broadcast content to the Authority every after two weeks.
On Tuesday, IBA director general Josephine Mapoma issued a statement, directing all radio and TV stations to surrender recordings of all their discussion programmes, talk shows, news bulletins and musical programmes to enable the Authority monitor activities in areas where it had no presence.
But reacting to the directive, Mwale told journalists in an interview at the Mulungishi international conference centre that the IBA’s directive was not in good faith because such a requirement does not exist even in the IBA Act itself.
“First of all, we would like to know if IBA did engage the stakeholders on that. Because as far as we know, media houses have been submitting content to IBA on a quarterly basis. So for IBA to say that they want to monitor content which is being broadcast in areas where they have no presence is not convincing enough because we know that IBA has been having access to that broadcast material through the security agencies in this country. We know that IBA has been accessing broadcast content when they are really interested in something. So for them to give that as an excuse, it’s very unfair. And even though IBA has got the mandate to monitor broadcast content, we feel that the decision by IBA to have media houses submit the content every two weeks is very retrogressive, why? Because there is a cost involved. IBA has not told the media how they are going to go about this, so our question to IBA is, are they going to pay for that? Who is going to bear the cost?” Mwale asked.
She added that IBA was alive to the fact that media houses in the country were struggling.
“In the IBA Act, all broadcasting media houses are supposed to keep content of their quarterly broadcast, but nowhere in the Act does it state that media houses should submit that content to IBA, so where is IBA drawing this authority from? We don’t know if we have errored to be submitting content to them, the fact is that in their own Act, there is nowhere where it required the media houses to be submitting content to IBA. So what are they up to? We have media houses where IBA has no presence and these media houses do have programming online. Why doesn’t IBA monitor? We know that IBA is supposed to monitor them and we have proof to that [effect]. So why do they want to strain the media so much that they would want to squeeze off the little resources that they are making? We are begging for answers, why should media houses submit content to IBA when it is nowhere in the Act? Media houses are only required to keep their content and keep it for future use, why should we submit it to IBA? So we want to understand where they are drawing that authority,” Mwale demanded.
She further accused IBA of targeting specific radio and TV stations.
“We know they are targeting certain stations, we know they are targeting certain programmes. But this is not the way to go and we would like to encourage and appeal to all media houses not to abide by what IBA is requesting them to do. First of all, IBA should have engaged stakeholders on this and they should have explained why they are doing it. We are thinking IBA being a regulator, by now government should have bought them a monitoring machine which can enable them monitor whatever content is being broadcast throughout the country. But what are they telling us? Why do they want to suppress the media? We thought when we talk about media independence, these are things that the regulators should look at and consider whenever they are trying to push through punitive sanctions to media houses,” argued Mwale.
“Our appeal right now to the IBA is to rescind their decision, can they rescind this decision because it is not going to help. It is not going to yield fruits anywhere. Our colleagues in the media, please don’t submit content to IBA on that two weeks basis because it is not right. If IBA is looking for certain programmes, they have an objective to meet, for how long is it going to be? Are we forever going to be submitting this content every two weeks? They should tell us, we do not want politics in this, we don’t want politics in the media. So I hope IBA is going to tell us what it is they are looking for and what they want to do because we know exactly what their mandate is.”