GOVERNMENT has strongly condemned reported incidents involving some suspected PF cadres who disrupted a radio programme on Muchinga Radio that featured UPND president Hakainde Hichilema, and another incident where the opposition leader was barred from featuring on Mpika Community Radio.

And Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya says government wants to stand with media houses in sustaining their operations as most have been affected by the covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Siliya says it is not clear when the lockdown on Nakonde would be lifted, as government was focusing on managing the disease in the area.

Speaking during a media briefing, Sunday, Siliya who is also chief government spokesperson noted that the disturbances in Muchinga Province were an embarrassment to government adding that there are laws in place that regulate broadcasting in the country.

“Government is deeply disturbed by reports of interference in the programming of some radio stations in Mpika and Chinsali districts, where some broadcast programmes have reportedly been disrupted and some unlawful directives ordered. Government wishes to place on record that there are laws in place, with very specific provisions of who has authority to regulate broadcasting in the country. The IBA Act provides for every citizen, whether in their official or individual capacity, who feels aggrieved by the conduct of any broadcasting station to lodge a complaint to the IBA. It is, therefore, a total violation of the IBA Act, and an embarrassment to the Government and its leadership, for any person to procure other people to storm a radio station and disrupt a broadcast programme or to order a broadcast station to broadcast in certain manner,” she said.

“Government condemns, in the strongest terms, reported incidents involving some suspected PF cadres who attempted to stop a radio programme on Muchinga Radio that featured the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) leader, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema. Government also condemns the incident in Mpika district where Mr Hichilema is reported to have been barred from featuring on Mpika Community Radio. The two unfortunate incidents have no blessings from Government. Government remains committed to the promotion of citizens’ rights, including the right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed in the national Constitution, provided that the freedom is exercised within the confines of the law.”

She added that the PF secretariat was also disturbed by the incident and would look into it.

“I am the Chief Government Spokesperson I don’t speak for the party, the party spokesperson is the secretary general. But I can confirm that I did speak with him last night over this incident and he is quite disturbed himself and he did inform me that before he makes a statement, he was going to call the provincial chairman in Muchinga province so that he could get the facts for himself. He is currently on the Copperbelt, on his way back to Lusaka and so I think you can follow up with him but he did promise me that he was going to follow up on this matter and he would make a statement,” Siliya said.

“Well, clearly this incidentm, I want to believe happened a day or two days ago and government has demonstrated before that anybody who breaks the law will be arrested. We had a number of people arrested in Chipata who beat a journalist. So governments record as far as defence, first of journalists and secondly of businesses, whether it’s a media business or any business is well demonstrated and we hope that the ministry of home affairs who are responsible for people breaking the law will address this matter and I am sure we will keep you posted.”

And Siliya said government was concerned about how media houses had been affected by the Covid-19 and was looking at ways to ensure that they don’t go down.

“This pandemic is not just in Zambia, so a lot of economic business activities worldwide have been hampered and I think it’s the same in this country that while we are trying to address problems, including daily mail, these are quite difficult times in terms of liquidity but we want to continue to wish our colleagues at daily mail well and other media houses which are struggling. It’s just not public media houses, even private media businesses are struggling, which puts the jobs of many of you journalists in jeopardy. Government wants to stand with all of you, whether you are in public or private media house on how we can find a sustainable way to manage these media houses,” Siliya said.

And when asked whether Prime Tv had applied for a new broadcasting license, Siliya directed the journalist to the IBA saying she doesn’t take applications in her office.

“Well, I am not IBA so I wouldn’t know, I am sure that if you communicate effectively with the director general of IBA, they would let you know because I don’t receive applications for TVs here. The IBA when they do licenses, they don’t tell me because it’s their job, it’s not my job in this office to receive applications. So I don’t know how they receive applications, when they sit to address applications, I have absolutely no idea,” she responded.

Meanwhile, Siliya noted that sh was not clear for how long Nakonde would remain under lockdown.

“For Nakonde is a bit difficult to tell for how long government will continue to restrict movement there except for essential movement because the priority is to manage the disease. You don’t want to put anybody at risk so you can’t say no we will restrict it for two days because the issue is to make sure that we keep Nakonde safe because the people of Nakonde are the people of Zambia. So our priority is really to ensure that we have measures there that should keep safe. Yesterday, after two days of relaxation of measures, they began again operation of screening and we don’t know when public health, who are the scientist who are guiding government and the Ministry of Health on what decisions we should take,” said Siliya.