(By Ernest Chanda)
THE Patriotic Front (PF) has complained to Prime Television management over what it termed biased and unethical coverage of the just ended Sesheke parliamentary by-election.
And the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has ordered the station to surrender all the footage aired so far this month.
On February 9, the station, in its main news bulletin carried a story stating that state police and PF supporters forced opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema to hide in the bush for 8 hours as he ran for his life.
The station further showed police firing teargas and live bullets in the central business district of Sesheke, with residents running about.
The following day, information and broadcasting minister Dora Siliya complained against Prime Television, accusing the station of inciting citizens against police and the ruling party.
In a letter dated February 11 and signed by party secretary general Davies Mwila, the PF accused the station of practicing partisan reporting.
‘’In accordance with the IBA Act (2002) Part V, Section 33, we wish to register our grievance and displeasure with Prime TV partisan reporting as illustrated in your biased coverage and unethical reporting of anti-Patriotic Front (PF) political opinions and beliefs, as well as your pro-United Party for National Development (UPND) propaganda disguised as news,’’ Mwila stated in part.
‘’We accordingly wish to bring to your attention the Prime TV 19:30 hours main news bulletin of Saturday 9th February 2019 which included a story with an erroneous and incendiary headline captioned as follows: ‘ARMED POLICE AND PF CADRES CHASE OF HH IN THICK FOREST TOOK 8 HRS AS IG PLANS TO INSTITUTE INQUIRY’.’’
Mwila further accused Prime TV of making anti-PF prejudices and political commentaries through its daily News Analysis programme.
With reference to the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Mwila warned that inflammatory and distorted coverage had the potential to destroy the country.
He further accused Prime Television of fueling violence during the by-election.
‘’Your inflammatory and false report that PF cadres fired live ammunition at Mr Hakainde Hichilema and his entourage fuelled hostile sentiments against our party by UPND supporters in Sesheke and it only served to escalate hostilities and violence in an electoral atmosphere that was already volatile,’’ stated Mwila.
‘’The Prime TV inaccurate report also attracted local and international social media and tabloid coverage, at the expense of our reputation as a patriotic and peace loving political party.’’
And in her letter to Prime Television dated February 14, IBA director general Josephine Mapoma demanded the station’s editorial policy and specific footage.
‘’… In view of the aforementioned, you are hereby requested to furnish the Authority with the following: 1. All Prime Television news bulletins including news analysis segments aired from 1st February to 13th February 2019; and 2. Episodes of the Oxygen of Democracy programme aired from 28th January to 13th February 2019,’’ stated Mapoma.
‘’Further, Prime Television is required to furnish the Authority with its current editorial policy. The material requested above must be availed to the Authority on or before 18th February 2019. The Authority looks forward to your full cooperation and timely response.’’