AMNESTY International says the cancellation of Prime TV’s license is a sinister ploy to weaken independent media voices in Zambia.
In a statement, Monday, Amnesty International director for Eastern and Southern Africa Deprose Muchena said government must immediately reinstate the broadcasting license of the television station.
“Zambian authorities must immediately reinstate the broadcasting license of independent television news channel, Prime TV, and allow it to resume its broadcasting work. The ‘cancellation’ of the broadcasting license of independent television news channel, Prime TV, by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) is a sinister ploy to muzzle and weaken independent media voices in Zambia. It is designed to silence any voice perceived to be critical of the authorities. Zambian authorities have targeted Prime TV for some time now. This is the second time they have suspended the station in a period of one year,” read the statement.
Muchena wondered how the station threatened public safety and security according to IBA’s reasons to cancel the license.
“The chairperson of the board of the IBA of Zambia, Josephine Mapoma, announced the suspension of the license of Prime TV through a vaguely worded statement citing ‘public safety, security peace welfare or good order’ concerns. However, the statement does not explain how the station threatened public safety and security nor provide any legal justifications for the cancellation of the license,” stated Muchena.
“If Zambia is still a place where the right to freedom of expression and media freedom are still cherished, the IBA board cannot arbitrarily cancel the broadcasting license of Prime TV. The authorities must fully and effectively respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to freedom of expression and media freedom. There must be tolerance of the plurality of media voices.”
Prime TV’s broadcasting license cancellation was announced through a statement by the IBA dated 9 April. The suspension follows alleged refusal by the station to air government’s COVID-19 public awareness campaigns on grounds that the station was owed money for airing previous state advertisements. Prime TV, as an independent station, depends on advertising revenue to pay salaries of its staff and operational costs.
Muchena recalled that this was not the first time that the PF regime was stifling private media in Zambia.
“The right to freedom of expression and media freedom have been under attack in Zambia in recent years. In 2016, authorities sanctioned the closure of the The Post newspaper, one of the country’s longest serving independent newspapers. Its owner, Fred M’embe, and news editor, Joseph Mwenda, had been previously brutalised by the police for the newspaper’s critical reporting.