THE International Press Institute (IPI) has called on the Zambian authorities to reverse the unequal cancellation of Prime TV’s license.

Zambia’s Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) on Thursday suspended the broadcasting license of Prime Television with immediate effect.

In the letter to Prime TV proprietor Gerald Shawa, IBA board member Josephine Mapoma said that “the cancellation of the license is necessary in the interest of the public safety. Security, peace, welfare or good order”.

In March, the government had stopped all advertisements to the channel and ordered its officials not to deal with the network after the private station’s owner refused to air sensitization material on COVID-19 for free.

However, Shawa said in a statement that Prime TV’s position reflected a collective decision of private media outlets, noting that the government had still not paid them for electoral advertisements in the 2016 elections.

And in a statement, Monday, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi Prasad said there was need for government to work in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation with the media to convey public health messages in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The IPI, a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today urged the broadcasting authority in Zambia to restore the license of the privately owned Prime Television. We urge the Zambian authorities to reverse the disproportionate cancellation of Prime TV’s license and ensure the station’s journalists can do their job of informing the public at this crucial time,” stated Prasad. “At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is posing a major threat to lives of people around the world, governments need to work in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation with the media to convey public health messages.”

Others that have condemned the IBA’s cancellation of Prime TV’s broadcasting licence include the Law Association of Zambia that has described the IBA’s decision as illegal, “as it was done prematurely without following the correct channels of the law”.

Last year, the IBA had suspended Prime TV’s license for 30 days for “exhibiting unprofessional elements in its broadcasting”.