TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TIZ) has called on the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to rescind its decision to cancel Prime TV’s broadcasting license, saying the Authority should not allow itself to be drawn into the political battle between the ruling party and the station.

And TIZ says it is hypocritical for the Patriotic Front government to claim that it is willing to assist small businesses that are negatively affected by COVID-19 when it has continued crippling them.

In a statement, TIZ president Rueben Lifuka noted that the closure of Prime TV would be injurious to the economy and questioned the timing of the decision.

“We urgently call upon the IBA to rescind its decision. Clearly the IBA has allowed itself to be drawn into a political battle which started with the CEO of Prime TV, while representing his colleagues, expressed the reluctance of private media houses to run Covid 19 related adverts for free. Numerous attempts have been made to shut down Prime TV and it is not surprising that this has come to pass. It is hypocritical that Government on one hand wants to assist SMEs that are negatively affected by Covid 19. Government has been calling upon the mine workers to protest the decision of Mopani Copper Mines to put some mines on care and maintenance because this action could lead to potential job losses. But this is the same government which does not think of the job losses caused by this sudden decision to take Prime TV off the airwaves. The timing of this decision is wrong and the rationality of the decision questionable,” Lifuka stated.

Lifuka observed that the PF government was intolerant to divergent views.

“The role of a free and independent private media in a democracy cannot be overemphasized. The growth and diversity of the media since Zambia returned to multiparty democracy, has been one of the developments that have set us apart. However, we have noted with concern that successive governments and now the PF government, continue to view the existence of independent private media, as a favour that they grant to these entities. Media houses in this country no longer exist because this is a fulfillment of the freedom of expression but seemingly these bodies exist only at the government’s pleasure. We want to categorically state that the media does not exist and should not exist to serve the narrow interests of the ruling party. The media and particularly the private media, should serve as a mirror to society. In this mirror, we should see many faces and hear many voices of Zambians and this is what Prime TV tried to do,” he stated.

“The media should be conveyors of the diverse views of the electorate. Unfortunately, what we read from this action is that the PF government is not any different from the MMD before them- this is a government that is intolerant to diverse views. The hallmark of democratic leaders lies in how they protect the rights of those who hold diverse views from their own. You may not agree with views aired through Prime TV, but that is no cause for you to remove the station from the airwaves. One of the main drivers for our push to return to multiparty democracy is that we want to have choice – choice of the party to support, choice of media, choice and the freedom to make that choice.”

TIZ stated that there were other means which IBA could have used to resolve any issue with Prime TV other than cancelling its broadcasting license.

“The fight against corruption also needs a strong independent media and in Prime TV- we believe we had a media house that was willing to speak truth to power and hold elected leaders accountable. Our democracy is definitely poorer by such high handed decisions. We want to believe that even in the most unlikely case that Prime TV was failing in upholding professional standards, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), should not have gone for the nuclear option of closing down the media house. There are surely many avenues to regulate and bring an erring media back into line,” stated Lifuka.