FREE Press Initiative (FPI) founder Joan Chirwa says there is need for the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and the Ministry of Information to school low level civil servants on how radio stations operate.
And IBA Director General Josephine Mapoma says the authority is investigating an incident where Petauke District Commissioner Velenasi Banda Moyo acting together with some police officers disrupted a paid for radio program on Petauke’s PASME FM Radio Station last weekend.
In an interview, Chirwa said she was shocked by the level of ignorance exhibited by Moyo in disrupting a paid for radio program and subsequently closing the station.
“The level of ignorance exhibited by the Petauke DC with regard to how radio stations operate is quite shocking. DCs are supposed to be civil servants that are abreast with the laws of the land. But clearly, Mrs Moyo in this case has shown us that she either knows nothing about the law or has no regard for the law but only to appease the party that facilitated her appointment into the civil service,” Chirwa said.
“Who gave her the powers to threaten a radio station and order closure over a very simple matter? In any case, if there was any violation of the broadcast regulations, the only institution mandated by law to threaten or effect closure on an erring broadcast house is the IBA, not anybody else. Such overzealous behaviour she exhibited must be stopped. There was nothing wrong PASME did by broadcasting a paid for programme for the opposition UPND. That can also be done by the ruling party, nobody can stop any political party from sponsoring a programme on radio.”
Chirwa asked Moyo apologise to the radio station and urged the ministry to educate civil servants on laws governing broadcasting.
“We expect the DC to render an apology to PASME for her behaviour. Moving forward, we call on IBA and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services to school these low level civil servants on what the law says with regard to radio stations in their localities. This will save them some embarrassment,” said Chirwa.
And in a seperate interview, Mapoma said the authority was investigating the matter.
“IBA is investigating the matter. A complaint has not yet been given to us not in writing. We have talked to the station. We are investigating the matter and if we are investigating, it means talking to everybody involved,” Mapoma said.
When asked if the Authority was concerned with the growing trend of disruptions of radio stations by junior government officials or ruling party members, Mapoma said she didn’t want to sound political on the matter.
“I wouldn’t want to go political. I think those are for political people to make a decision. For us as IBA, we are investigating what took place and what is happening and a statement will be made immediately we finish,” said Mapoma.