THE Media Liaison Committee (MLC) says government should stop blackmailing independent media and rescind its decision of stopping all official business with Prime Television.

In a statement, MLC chairperson Enoch Ngoma said there should always be dialogue before drastic measures were hastily implemented.

“Studies have shown that African governments are in the habit of using government resources to disadvantage private media and private companies that are providing services to the opposition parties, CSOs or citizens deemed critical of the government. This government action also contributes to Zambia being downgraded into junk status among investors and those seeking to set up businesses as it sends a negative message that a group of individuals abuse tax payers’ money to kill local businesses. It is also hypocritical that the same government can claim to support local entrepreneurs when in fact not. The MLC is aware that this is not the first time that the Zambian government is using its financial muscle from tax payers’ money to kill a private Zambian media by denying business access to its services,” read the statement

“To operate a media company in Zambia has become a thankless and non-profitable job as the government is always going all out to overtax the news print and broadcast equipment. The MLC, therefore, strongly calls on government to rescind its decision on Prime TV and stop blackmailing independent media with taxpayers’ money. Prime TV is equally a tax payer that should not be segregated. If they have any regard for media freedom, let them cancel this despotic decision. Let us always engage in dialogue before taking drastic measures.”

Ngoma stated that government should be aware that businesses they wanted to deny the station were derived from taxes collected from Zambians, who included Prime TV workers.

“MLC has received with shock the statement from Minister of Information and Broadcast Services, Dora Siliya, that the Zambian government has instructed its entire machinery not to do business with a Zambian private media institution, Prime Television and that those that already had contracts with the institution must terminate these contracts. This action by government is not only illegal, but also immoral. It is illegal as it goes against the spirit of fair competition, consumer protection, and public procurement regulations. Why should government disadvantage a local business by instructing other customers not to buy or deal with a private company? This is immoral since Prime TV is a local Zambian company that offers a public service to Zambians as an employer, mainly in the in the media industry and a tax payer to the Treasury through the various taxes collected by the Zambia Revenue Authority,” read the statement.

“The MLC would like to remind the Zambian government, in case they are not aware, that government business and finance that they want to deny Prime TV are derived from the very taxes collected from Zambians, who include Prime TV and its staff, and users of Prime TV media services. Prime TV, as a Zambian company duly registered and in compliance with PACRA under Companies Act and IBA under the Independence Broadcasting Authority Act, is a tax payer and employer of many Zambian citizens. Prime TV is also a provider of vital information, news, education and entertainment through its various media platforms to millions of Zambians who, too, are voters, tax payers, tax that is enjoyed by the same government that is trying to deny business to this media institution! Prime TV, as a Zambia company, is not expected to be denied business opportunities by the very Zambian government that daily collects taxes from it.”

Ngoma expressed disappointment that Siliya and her Permanent Secretary, Amos Malupenga, who were seasoned media practitioners, did not advise government against the decision to sideline the station.

“In the past, the MMD government stifled the growth of local media by secretly instructing government wings and departments not to advertise or grant interviews to the private media. This was done to The Post, The Monitor, Radio Phoenix, and Breeze FM, among others, and Honourable Siliya was, again, in government. It is, therefore, not surprising that she has picked up from where she left at the time to bring confusion to the media. It is also depressing to realize that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services has got seasoned media practitioners, who should have advised against the decision to sideline Prime TV. Hon Siliya, herself, is a seasoned broadcaster, while the Permanent Secretary, Mr Amos Malupenga, is a renowned journalist and former managing editor at the country’s largest independent newspaper that time, The Post. Naturally, one would not expect such hostility from these two media personalities,” stated Ngoma.