Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Reverend Emmanuel Chikoya says government’s decision to impose sanctions on Prime TV which led to removing the broadcaster from Topstar is an assault on press freedom.

In a statement, Tuesday, Rev Chikoya stated that this was a sabotage on a promising independent media house that covered all angles of news.

“We, at the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), are alarmed by the continued suffocation and intimidation of Prime TV by the government of Zambia. This decision taken by the government through Topstar to stop carrying Prime TV’s signal on the latter is an assault on press freedom. The Country has not forgotten how the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) was used to close Zambia’s main tabloid newspaper, the Post, a few years ago on charges that could have been alternatively dealt with and despite the fact that some Public Media Houses were guilty of the same charges leveled against the Post,” Rev Chikoya stated.

“As a nation, we are not ready to see another act of sabotage on a promising independent media house that covers all angles of news coverage in all corners of the country. These attempts by the government are a pure act of press freedom suffocation and failure to accommodate divergent views. government must understand that Prime TV, just like many other private media houses do not receive any levy from taxpayers. This means that for their operations they depend entirely on advertisements.”

He added that it was disappointing that despite Prime TV proprietor Gerald Shawa’s apology, government still decided to take punitive measures on the television station.

“We also do not agree with the emotional outbursts by Prime TV chief executive officer Mr Gerald Shawa on this matter. That, however, does not warrant the excessive punitive measures taken by the government against the television station. Given our perspective above, we wish to remind the government that the move by Prime TV to apologize inspite of the fact that they have a legitimate concern is an indication that The TV station is willing to collaborate as they see government to be an equal partner in development and information sharing,” he stated.

“We, as a Church, expect that during this time of the global Coronavirus pandemic which has not spared Zambia, all stakeholders must put aside any differences and unite in the fight against the disease. We have called on the government, the media, opposition political parties, the Church, cooperating partners and the general public to unite as one force in order to overcome the Coronavirus disease and the challenges that comes with its on slot.”

Rev Chikoya called on government to rescind its decision and reinstate the TV station’s signal on Topstar.

“We, therefore, call on the government to rescind its decision on Prime TV and reinstate the TV station’s signal on Topstar and chat the way forward in an amicable manner. Prime TV has extended its hand of reconciliation to the government and so we expect the government to respond in the same manner. We hope and pray that government will be able to sit down with Prime TV and come up with an amicable solution to their differences, especially that the latter is already willing in this regard,” said Rev Chikoya.