THE Media Liaison Committee (MLC) has engaged the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) on the reinstatement of Prime Television’s broadcasting license which was recently canceled in public interest.
In an interview, MLC chairperson Enoch Ngoma disclosed that MLC held an engagement meeting with the IBA on Thursday but could not discuss much since Prime TV had appealed to Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya.
“We could not debate into detail because Prime TV has lodged an appeal to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services. So IBA are saying that since Prime TV has lodged in an appeal, now it’s in the hands of the Minister and it’s beyond IBA. However, certain issues like police presence at Prime TV premises, IBA says that one, we can work together that officers are removed or even if they are not removed, the Prime TV members of staff and the other business people who want to go there can still access the premises. This is because the license which was withdrawn was for operating the TV station on bouquets. So the premises should not be restricted because there is no criminal activity involved,” Ngoma said.
“Then on the reasons why Prime TV was closed, we wanted an explanation to that because the press statement from IBA only says ‘in public interest and in maintenance of peace and security’. We don’t know what that means and we wanted IBA to explain to us. But on that one also they said it is the Board that can explain that, not the management because the Board is the one that made the decision to cancel the license. So we have left an appointment to meet the Board as soon as possible. So we took a case to IBA on the fact that procedure was not followed when Prime TV’s license was canceled and there is a lot of illegality involved. But all those things, the Director General said we could not discuss those things unless if the board members, especially the Chairperson, was around with us.”
Asked if he was optimistic that Prime TV would be reopened, Ngoma replied in the affirmative.
“Well, from what we discussed, of course we didn’t get the actual answers that we wanted on so many things because of the fact that the matter is now before the Minister and secondly, because the Board is the one which made a decision and not the IBA. However, the way we were received and the way we discussed the issues, we cannot complain, we are happy. We are only looking forward now to meeting the Minister before she responds to the appeal from Prime TV. We want to meet the Minister as soon as possible. We had written a letter to the President, the President has responded to us to say we should meet the minister before we can meet him, let’s see if we can resolve the matter ourselves and at minister level before we meet the President. So we are going to meet the minister since the letter from State House to us was copied to the minister to say that she should meet us,” he said.
He said it was important for Prime TV to be reopened because it gave Zambians an alternative voice.
“What we intend to achieve at the end of the day is to have the operating license for Prime TV to be reinstated because Prime TV is a media house that offers an alternative voice to the people of Zambia. At least there are some views which are expressed on Prime TV which cannot be expressed in other media like ZNBC which is a public institution. So we need an alternative voice to allow information flow from all sides of the country in the manner that people can choose which information they want and not the state to restrict as to all to listen or tune in to ZNBC alone. We want people to have alternative in terms of accessing information,” said Ngoma.
“Apart from that, Prime TV is a business entity which is creating jobs. So if we start closing down the same institutions that are creating employment for the people of Zambia, what are we going to achieve at the end of the day? How many people are going to lose jobs at Prime TV and how many dependents depend on those people? It will be a chain reaction. This is exactly what happened to the Post Newspaper, the government cannot continue doing what it did to the Post newspaper to all the media because that will mean that we shall remain only with the government controlled media and we don’t want to go that route.”