THE Media Liaison Committee (MLC) has threatened to withdraw its participation in the drafting of the proposed statutory self-regulation of the media if government doesn’t rescind its decision on Prime TV.
And MLC has demanded the immediate reinstatement of Prime TV’s broadcasting license and the dissolution of the current Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) board.
In a statement, Wednesday, MLC chairperson Enock Ngoma stated that MLC was appalled at the withdrawal of Prime TV’s license by government through IBA.
He observed that the withdrawal of Prime TV’s broadcasting license was an attempt to deny Zambians an alternative platform to access information on matters that affected them and had nothing to do with the coverage of COVID-19 adverts.
“We the media, assembled under the auspices of the Media Liaison Committee (MLC); And having followed matters surrounding the impasse between Prime Television and Government (with its agents) on matters relating to the coverage of COVID-19, and having been actively involved in helping resolve this impasse, we are appalled at the withdrawal of Prime Television’s license by the Government through the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA),” Ngoma stated.
“The MLC therefore makes the following observations: That the withdrawal of Prime TV’s broadcasting license by the IBA has nothing to do with the coverage of COVID-19, an undertaking that the station, like any other media house in Zambia has adequately and timely covered. Instead, we feel it is an attempt to deny Zambians an alternative platform of accessing information and debates on matters that affect them.”
Ngoma further charged that the cancellation of Prime TV’s licence was illegal and highly political as IBA did not engage the TV station before canceling its broadcasting license.
He observed that as the country headed towards the 2021 elections, MLC anticipated IBA and other government agents to be unleashed on media platforms perceived to be offering critical and independent media coverage to stakeholders outside government and the ruling party.
“The cancellation of Prime TV’s licence is illegal, highly political, and totally against the Digital Migration Policy of 2014. The MLC is aware that the Independent Broadcasting Authority did not engage Prime TV before cancellation of their broadcasting license as stipulated under the IBA Act and under normal rules of natural justice. We are also aware that the IBA Board did not deliberate on these matters, it was an impulsive and illegal decision,” Ngoma stated.
“As Zambia heads towards the 2021 Presidential and general elections, and with such developments, the media fraternity anticipates a more ruthless environment where abuses of media practitioners and media institutions by political elements in the government and the ruling party will escalate. Further, the MLC anticipates IBA and other Government agents to be unleashed on all media platforms perceived to be offering critical and independent media coverage to stakeholders outside Government and the ruling Patriotic Front party.”
And Ngoma demanded the immediate reinstatement of Prime TV’s broadcasting license and the dissolution of the current IBA board, among other demands.
“The MLC therefore demands the following: That police officers be withdrawn from Prime TV premises immediately. Let the owners of the property and their staff be allowed unfettered access to their offices and business grounds. There is no criminality in this matter to warrant police presence. That the IBA reinstates Prime TV’s broadcasting license forthwith, to allow for the continued day-to-day business as a free and independent media protected by the Zambian Constitution. That the Zambian government takes seriously the international statutes that we signed as a country on Press Freedom, Access to Information and Protection of the Rights of Citizensto Free Flow of Information and Ideas,” he stated.
“That the current IBA board be dissolved and that a new board that will put national interest first for the people of Zambia be appointed immediately in consultation with media associations, media owners, and community radio stations, which constitute the majority of media houses under IBA supervision. That the current IBA Director General be retired in national interest. That an independent body be constituted immediately, to be the signal carrier for all television stations. The current arrangement where we have TopStar as the signal career is illogical and defies business sense. TopStar’s behaviour has justified the State interference that the MLC feared about 10 years ago when the digital migration process was mooted in the country.”
He further demanded that the harmonisation of the IBA and ZNBC Acts be expedited so that all media platforms, including ZNBC, were guided by the same laws and behaviour regarding fair coverage of issues in the country now, during the 2021 general elections, and thereafter.
Ngoma stated that if the situation did not change for the better, MLC would have no choice but to withdraw its participation in the process of the proposed statutory self-regulation of the media.
“In view of the afore mentioned concerns and if the situation does not change for the better, the MLC shall have no choice but to withdraw its participation in the process of the proposed statutory self-regulation of the media, as the MLC fears that it can no longer hold the little trust that we had given Government on this score. We cannot risk having the media to operate at the mercy of the Government and its ruling party. The reality is that the media has completely lost trust in the current government, and it’s up to the Government to salvage that trust,” stated Ngoma.