FREE Press Initiative (FPI) Zambia says it is hopeful that Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya will respond favorably to Prime Television’s appeal against the cancellation of its broadcasting license.

In a statement, Monday, FPI Founder and Coordinator Joan Chirwa expressed confidence that Siliya, being a trained journalist herself who was working closely with another scribe, her Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga, would make an objective consideration of the matter.

Chirwa expressed shock at the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) for cancelling Prime TV’s broadcasting license without following the due process as provided for by the law.

“FPI has taken keen interest in Prime TV’s decision to appeal the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA)’s cancellation of the private television station’s broadcasting licence. This is because of the fact that Prime TV’s licence was cancelled without due process as provided for in Section 29(2) of the IBA Act which states that, ‘Where a broadcasting licensee does not comply with this Act or with the conditions of the broadcasting licence, the Authority shall notify the broadcasting licensee of the measures that the broadcasting licensee should undertake, within a specified period to comply with the conditions of this Act or the broadcasting license’. Additionally, Section 29 (7) of the IBA Act states that ‘The Board shall, before cancelling or suspending a broadcasting licence under this section, give the broadcasting licensee an opportunity to be heard’,” Chirwa stated.

“Why the IBA chose to disregard the provisions of the law in this particular matter and to illegally mete out the ultimate punishment on a private broadcaster without giving them an opportunity to be heard is something that is yet to be understood. The IBA stated in its statement that it reached the decision to cancel the licence in ‘public interest’, but did not disclose which public raised issues against the TV station that warranted withdrawal of the licence. It is alarming that institutions that are expected to follow the law to the letter are the first to breach the very laws that anchor their existence.”

Meanwhile, Chirwa expressed optimism that Siliya and her team at the Ministry of Information would give a favourable response to the appeal.

“On the appeal to Hon Siliya, we are hopeful of a positive outcome and an objective consideration of the matter at hand. Ms Siliya is a journalist, her Permanent Secretary Mr Amos Malupenga is a journalist and President Edgar Lungu is a lawyer, and they collectively have a deep understanding of the importance of press freedom and the implications on a government of the closure of a media institution. The FPI will closely follow through the appeal process and ensure the law is respected and fairness is employed at this stage,” she stated.

Chirwa regretted that the media in Zambia faced a lot of problems in the execution of its duties at the moment.

“The media in Zambia is at the moment faced with a catalogue of problems and adding pressures of government action against them for whatever misdeeds is like pronouncing extinction of the entire industry. The Zambian government must henceforth allow the press to exist freely, and Ms Siliya, having been part of the Global Media Freedom Conference co-hosted by the United Kingdom and Canada in July, 2019, will certainly not disappoint in upholding the commitments she made towards a free press at that high-level meeting in London,” stated Chirwa.