EMBATTLED National Restoration Party (NAREP) president Steven Nyirenda says it is shameful that Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya can deny that government closed Prime TV and The Post Newspapers when evidence clearly points to the contrary.
Last week, Siliya said it was a total fabrication to argue that government closed Prime TV and The Post, insisting that government remained tolerant to independent news media.
But in an interview, Nyirenda insisted that government orchestrated the closure of the defunct media houses.
“I think sometimes some people daydream. How can they now say, ‘it was total fabrication?’ When it was clear, it was in black and white? It is the government that closed Muvi TV, that time the Minister of Information was Chishimba Kambwili. It was closed for two weeks and that brought problems to Muvi TV. Secondly, they came to close The Post, of course, they would say, ‘The Post had a problem with taxes…’ But government at that level has the will power to stop it. We know that it was orchestrated by the government. Where Prime TV is concerned, for somebody to say that it did not close Prime TV, it is a shame! Those people must be shameful! They issued threats and then they revoked the license. And they have refused to have any audience with (Gerald) Shawa. If they were not the ones, they would have asked Mr Shawa to sit around the table and then say, ‘how can we help you to make sure that you continue with your business?’ So, it is shameful that people can make a pronouncement to say, ‘government did not close any media’,” Nyirenda said.
“The leadership has no vision; they don’t know what they are doing and where they are going. If the leadership has no principles, anything goes, mediocrity, corruption all these other things happen. They don’t have integrity, they don’t care. These people have got no vision at all so to cover up what they are doing, they intimidate the Fourth Estate. If you are going to intimidate them, it means you don’t want to develop, you are doing bad things, so the easiest thing is intimidate them so that everybody shuts up and you can do whatever you want.”
Meanwhile, Nyirenda bragged that he was gaining popularity as evidenced by the party’s performance in the recent Mbereshi ward by elections.
“PF got about 800 votes, we got 216 and the UPND got 35 votes. It was a very good performance for us and we are sure that in those elections, the PF do everything that they can to make sure that others are disadvantaged, and at the end of the day, they manipulate the process. We don’t consider PF because we know what they are doing, their wins are artificial. That is why we are happily saying, ‘we beat UPND and we think we won the election,” said Nyirenda.
Debating the estimates of expenditure for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services budget that stood at K46 million, Siliya refuted any assertions that government had been intolerant towards independent news 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.