THE Media Liaison Committee (MLC) and the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) Zambia Committee is disappointed with the actions by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in suspending the operating licence for Prime TV for 30 days.
MLC has noted that the IBA action follows a series of events involving the Patriotic Front (PF) Party Secretary General Davies Mwila chasing Prime TV journalists from covering their press conference, complaining of the TV Station being biased and then writing IBA complaining about Prime TV.
MLC notes that in dealing with the Prime TV and Mr Davies Mwila’s complaints, IBA completely disregarded their code of conduct and complaints procedure of having a complaint made in writing and giving a news media 14 days to respond before the complaining individual writes to the IBA.
The IBA in dealing with the Prime TV issue clearly took sides and was quick to come to the defence of the PF SG instead of the media industry they regulate.
MLC is aware of many public complaints of biasness against the public broadcaster ZNBC and other media houses aligned to the PF and yet the IBA has not had a single meeting with these media houses to discuss the complaints or let alone call for the submission of their recordings.
MLC is further disappointed that the IBA led by a number of media personnel who are supposed to understand the operations of the media are now in the fore front in shutting down independent media platforms, reducing access to information, ‘killing’ media diversity and pluralism by suspending any media houses, especially community radio stations, that are deemed to be anti-PF and anti the interest of the supporters of the PF of providing platforms to government critiques and independent minds. This biasness by the IBA was also seen in the way IBA forced the suspension of the Zambezi Magic Lusaka Hustle following the statement by Religious Affairs Minister Godfridah Sumaili without following their laid down complaints procedure.
MLC notes that according to the IBA Act and IBA regulations, the IBA is expected to be a promoter of pluralistic and diverse broadcast media content and practice. The IBA Act also mandates IBA to help regulate and arbitrate on complaints raised by aggrieved parties affected by a broadcast media in a fairly manner. The presence of IBA in a way helps protect and promote diverse media and pluralistic media content and professionalism in Zambia. IBA as a professional regulator should be seen to be protecting the media industry it regulates from unnecessary attacks and victimisation on top of ensuring the smooth operation on this unique media broadcast sector.
MLC also notes the injustice of having the IBA Board chaired by the Permanent Secretary (PS) Ministry of Information and Broadcast Services (MIBS) Chanda Kasolo whose ministry is on the higher hierarchy and is expected to look into appeals against any IBA decisions. Where is the Independence of the IBA if its board is chaired by a civil servant from MIBS?
MLC and the WPFD Zambia Committee therefore calls on the both the IBA and the Ministry of Information PS Chanda Kasolo to immediately rescind their decision and allow Prime TV back on the air. IBA should stop abusing their powers of issuing broadcast licences.
MLC and the WPFD Zambia committee also calls on Parliament, especially the Committee on Information and Broadcast Services to take keen interests into these questionable decisions by the IBA and its board and make to be done reforms to the set-up of the IBA Board and hiring of the Director.
MLC and the WPFD Zambia Committee calls on all media owners to stand united in solidarity with Prime TV and ensure that the media sector does not tolerate this continued abuse of the license powers that the IBA has over the broadcast sector. The media sector, like any other sector is a business sector that cannot cease to operate at the whims of any Jim and Jack who is not happy with media pluralism.
In that score the MLCs and WPFD Zambia Committee with its partners offers free media training and ethics mentoring to Prime TV and the affected radio stations in order to fulfil the demands by the IBA.
The MLC and the WPFD Zambia Committee is also ready to meet with the IBA management to discuss the matter concerning Prime TV and any other issues that the regulator feels needs the attention of media bodies.
Issued by: ENOCK NGOMA MLC/WPFD CHAIRPERSON