THE Lusaka High Court has halted proceedings in a case where Prime Television Limited is challenging government’s decision to cease all cooperation with it.
Lusaka High Court Judge Catherine Lombe Phiri ordered that the proceedings be stayed and accordingly referred the case to arbitration.
In this matter, Prime Television has petitioned the Lusaka High Court for an order quashing Information Minister Dora Siliya’s decision to cease all cooperation with the station.
The television station which has cited the Attorney General, Topstar Communications Company Limited and Multichoice Zambia Limited as respondents, is seeking an order declaring government’s decision to cease all transactions and business with it, unconstitutional.
Prime Television further wants an order that all media houses have the right to access and disseminate information from government without undue hindrances and an order that Topstar and Multichoice Zambia cannot remove it from their platforms at the direction of government.
However, Topstar applied to have the matter stayed and referred to arbitration.
It argued that the Arbitration clause had not been exhausted by Prime TV and that the proceedings were therefore in conflict with the said clause and thus improperly before court.
Topstar stated the relationship between it and Prime TV was commercial in nature and governed by a Service Level Agreement.
It submitted that where an Arbitration clause was contained in an agreement and a party decided to institute Court proceedings, then the said party would be said to be in breach of the Agreement.
However, Prime Television’s proprietor Gerald Shawa asked the court to proceed and hear the matter on its merit.
He argued that the Service Level Agreement between the Television station and Topstar was a commercial disputes agreement.
Shawa submitted that Topstar did not invoke the Arbitration clause when it wrote to the Television on March 27 this year, informing it that it was being removed from the Topstar platform, following a directive from the Minister of Information and Broadcasting that all government institutions should desist from engaging with Prime TV.
He added that the Service Level Agreement between the station and Topstar did not extend to constitutional matters such as the ones before court.
And ruling on the same, Friday, Justice Phiri granted Topstar its application to stay proceedings and refer the matter to arbitration.
“In view of the foregoing and being satisfied that the applicant’s and the second respondent’s agreement contains an Arbitration clause, the application by the second respondent is granted. It is hereby ordered that the proceedings in this matter are stayed and the matter is accordingly referred to arbitration,” ruled Justice Phiri.