THE Lusaka High Court has ordered Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation to adequately and fairly cover UPND’s presidential campaign activities. This is contained in an ex parte order for interim injunction obtained yesterday by UPND secretary general Winston Chibwe and party campaign manager Dipak Patel. The High Court has also restrained ZNBC, its servants, agents, journalists, photographers from barring, prohibiting, denying the petitioners (Chibwe and Patel) equitable and fair access to party election broadcasts and political advertisements during the campaign. According to Chibwe and Patel’s petition, ZNBC as public broadcaster was mandated to give all political parties equal coverage during election campaigns.
They argued that ZNBC had failed, refused and/neglected to cover UPND during its campaigns for the 20th January 2015 presidential by-elections and all their past campaigns, thereby disadvantaging their presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema and causing them to lose elections. Chibwe and Patel also stated that ZNBC had denied Hichilema media coverage of his countrywide campaigns although the corporation was notified of activities in good time. “Your petitioners state that on 20th November 2014, the Respondent broadcast the Patriotic Front convention live from 11:43 hours to 12:02 hours; 14:55 hours to 16:00 hours; 18:00 hours to 18:04 hours and on the 1st of December from 12:04 hours to 14:00 hours and did not broadcast the said convention as a political advertisement, thereby exhibiting total bias and discrimination towards the Petitioners’ presidential candidate, Hakainde Hichilema’s campaigns present and past,” according to the petition.
“Your petitioners further assert that the conduct of the respondent in blacking out the Petitioners by not covering their political events is unconstitutional in that it is being implemented in a discriminatory manner and thereby violating the requirement for laws to be equally applied to all citizens of the Republic of Zambia,” according to the petition filed in the High Court principal registry. According to the petitioners, the particulars of the constitutional breach lie in the infringement of the freedoms of expresion and the right to dissemminate informstion by not giving the UPND media coverage, thereby contravening Articles 20, 21 and 23 of the Constitution Cap 1 of the Laws of Zambia. They also stated that the UPND was in danger of losing the presidential election as it was not being given media coverage by the ZNBC, which should be accessible by all Zambians. The petitioners asked for an injunction against ZNBC and an order compelling them to cover all political rallies of the UPND.