INFORMATION and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya says it is a total fabrication to argue that government closed Prime TV and The Post Newspaper.

And Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo says unruly citizens that disrupt radio programmes will not be allowed to go scot-free.

Meanwhile, Ikelengi UPND member of parliament Elijah Muchima says the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, through ZNBC, only covers PF activities, which is why the corporation remains a loss-making venture.

Debating the estimates of expenditure for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting budget that stood at K46 million, Siliya refuted any assertions that government had been intolerant to the independent media.

“Media houses are managed by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and the IBA, in section 23 of the amended 2010 Act, they are the ones who are responsible for licensing. So, the Minister in person and, indeed, government is not responsible for licensing. The people who provided the law for licensing of Prime TV or any media house in this country is this House. And it is this House that demanded that laws must be observed. And when a media house is non-compliant, the IBA can only do what they were asked to by the members of parliament. So, for somebody to accuse, whether it is the Minister in person or government that we closed an institution is total fabrication because those laws are made by members of parliament. I hope that we can put this matter to rest. This goes to The Post as well that it is an issue of compliance to tax issues,” argued Siliya.

“The Ministry is not about ZNBC, it is not about us politicians, it is about the 17 million Zambians. This government has committed itself to media pluralism ensuring that over 120 radio stations are licensed, over 40 television are licensed in this country. Over 10 newspapers, you can take your pick…whether it is the Diggers!, the Mast, Times of Zambia, Daily Nation and online. This government has been extremely tolerant unlike in other jurisdictions that Zambians should express themselves. So, I don’t know who is not being heard. I don’t know how you can accuse the government of being heavy-handed?”

And contributing to the debate, Kampyongo said his Ministry was working to ensure that it created an enabling environment for media practitioners.

“It is evident that the Ministry has broadened itself in terms of the institution that has been established to entertain our citizens. And you can tell by looking at the number of radio and television stations that are dotted across the country. I just want to say that our people have got their rights to express themselves, but also to understand that there is no such thing as absolute freedom. Every freedom must be expressed within the confines of the law. Those that have got the responsibility to allow people to express themselves must make sure that those they allow to voice out are voicing within the confines of the law. You can’t just wake up to go on a platform and start demeaning, insulting the Office of the Republican President. I also want to assure the Honorable Minister that my Ministry is making sure that we provide an environment for our media practitioners, who have been under threat by some of our unruly citizens. To those who have been attacking radio stations, and attacking those people on those radio stations, no one will be allowed to go scot-free,” said Kampyongo.

Meanwhile, Muchima complained that the national broadcaster served only as a conduit for the PF, which explained why it remained a loss-making venture.

“This is a Ministry that is supposed to be informative. However, I am very disappointed when we came from the colonial era to the independence time, the citizenry was informed of whatever was happening in the country. They used to go, even to the rural places with vehicles. Any programme, the government was very objective. But see how ZNBC is operating? It is purely for the PF! It does not cover anything that is negative. But you see, you cannot build if you don’t hear opposing views. What we want to see is to balance up the equation. There is a lot of misinformation going on. A lot of people are relying on social media, the reason is simple, because of the way ZNBC is biased, people tend to listen to wrong information passing by. Today, the government is broke! This is the time for the Ministry of Information to go down, even in villages, to explain to the people you can do that in many ways,” said Muchima.

“Today, cadres of PF are everywhere misleading people that, ‘government has a lot of money…’ ‘If people went to PF and supported it, there would be massive development.’ And even sub-chiefs will recognise this information is contrary to what is pertaining here. But here is a Ministry…very idle! The Ministry doesn’t even know what is happening in villages. Why do we give them money? To talk about Lusaka? Saying things that are appeasing the PF only? No, let’s be objective. The Ministry of Information is supposed to be objective and cover the entire country without bias. But what we have seen the Ministry covers only the PF’s activities and forget about other activities of the nation, this is totally wrong! It is not a Ministry for the (ruling) party. That is why we have a party spokesperson and the Ministry is supposed to be in between, but what is happening now, I don’t even know. That is why ZNBC is a loss-making venture because of the way they are carrying themselves. The private media you are closing is the one, which is informative.”