ALLIANCE for Community Action (ACA) executive director Laura Miti says the removal of Prime Television from the Topstar has nothing to do with the broadcaster’s refusal to air free COVID-19 adverts but the urge by the ruling Patriotic Front to silence critical voices.
And Miti has encouraged Prime TV to seek legal redress.
In a letter dated March 27, acting Topstar chief executive officer Liu Yingnan informed Prime TV proprietor Gerald Shawa that the Telecommunications company had decided to remove his station from all its platforms in adherence to the directive from the Ministry of Information for all government entities to cease business transanctions with the TV station.
But commenting on this decision by Topstar, Miti said Information Minister Dora Siliya’s directive was unconstitutional.
“The Minister of Information made a very undemocratic and unconstitutional call on public entities to have no dealings with Prime TV simply because they asked to be paid for Covid 19 adverts. There is nothing wrong with a business asking for payment from government. It is on the back of that unconstitutional directive that Topstar then throws Prime TV off its platform. That decision taken at the height of the Covid-19 crisis is eyebrow raising. As shown by the fact that the Minister herself goes on to Prime when she really wants to be heard, it is clear that government is aware of the fact that the majority citizens, especially the underprivileged, have Prime TV as their preferred news source. How can a Minister deeply involved in the Covid-19 response try to reduce the station’s reach at a time when we need information to reach a large part of the population?” Miti wondered.
“Seeing as this decision makes no logical, democratic or constitutional sense, it is my view that this has little to do with Prime refusing to air Covid-19 adverts. It feeds into the larger PF strategy to use all manner of offices and powers to silence all alternate, free and critical voices. It is the Judiciary going against their own principle of the right of the accused to be heard in gagging lawyer John Sangwa, it is Pilato being arrested for implementing a very commendable initiative to empower young people with governance information, it is a government so obsessed with the upcoming elections they have lost all sense of judgement. Trying to gag Prime TV at this point in a public health crisis shows a government that has lost its ability to promote the public good.”
And in statement shared on her Facebook page, Friday, Miti encouraged Prime TV to fight this development in court.
“Minister of Information, Dora Siliya has thrown Prime TV off Topstar. Well the letter was signed by Topstar management but heck. That rant about Covid adverts makes sense now. It was the first step towards reducing Prime TV’s reach. The PF is worried about Prime reaching millions of underprivileged Zambian with an alternative source of news. The PF has no end to its attempt to keep itself in power by bending every known law of decency and democracy. Bill 10 is ultra undemocratic, now they add denying the people their preferred news source. I hope Prime TV fights this nonsense in court. It is absolutely unacceptable,” stated Miti in her post.