(By Chambwa Moonga and Charles Tembo)
CIVIL rights activist Brebner Changala has wondered for how long the Independent Broadcasting Authority will be used to stifle dissent and launder “mischievous” activities of the PF government.
Changala has charged that IBA director general Josephine Mapoma’s name is being dragged in the mud “in order to serve the face of elected criminals.”
On Monday, Mapoma announced that the Authority had suspended the broadcasting licence of Prime TV and Nyimba’s Valley FM radio for 30 days and 60 days, respectively.
On the suspension of the broadcasting licences of Prime TV and Valley FM, IBA Board chairman and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo: said: “crimes committed against the IBA Act were sufficient for us to withdraw the licences permanently for those two.”
Reacting to the suspension of Prime TV’s licence, Changala said the people who created the IBA did not create it to stifle dissent or to allow all media houses to conform to the dictates of the ruling party.
He accused the IBA of being now an agent of the ruling PF and “therefore an enemy of the people of Zambia.”
“I must say we are not being governed well by the PF regime. It’s now very clear that we are dealing with a dictatorship, which must be fought. The people of Zambia must reclaim their democracy and reclaim their country,” Changala said in an interview.
“The suspension of the broadcasting licence for Prime TV by IBA after the complaint from Davies Mwila of PF is totally unacceptable and is draconian. Killing the private media is actually criminal! What IBA has shown to every right thinking citizen, who had any doubt, is that it’s now an agent of the PF and therefore an enemy of the people of Zambia.”
Changala advised the IBA to enhance its monitoring of ZNBC.
“IBA must know that there is an organisation that it’s supposed to be monitoring on a daily basis and that’s dead ZNBC. ZNBC is a product of taxpayers’ money but all what ZNBC does is to please the PF. That is a station that does not cover those with dissenting views like Chishimba Kambwili, NAREP president Mr (Elias) Chipimo, Mr Hakainde (Hichilema) or indeed myself as Brebner Changala,” he lamented.
“ZNBC would instead go and cover a ward chairman of PF because he is singing praises for Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu and his cronies. That is the institution that IBA is supposed to control and not targeting private media which is operating under very challenging conditions.”
He added that a 30-day suspension of Prime TV would cripple it.
“Prime TV is a business entity with a workforce, with bills to pay. So, to suspend them for 30 days is meant to cripple them so that they do not rise again,” Changala said.
“So, I condemn the act of IBA and madam Mapoma who has had a good career in public service. She has given up and come to destroy her name in order to please an oppressor.”
Changala further said whether one liked it or not, the PF government, in its current form, was an oppressive regime which “has come to hinder the progresses that have been recorded in this country over the years, in terms of media development.”
“To side with them is a tragedy! What madam Mapoma should have done is to leave the IBA. Her name is being dragged in the mud in order to serve the face of elected criminals,” charged Changala.
“I ask the IBA to sit up and think again; for how long are they going to launder the PF’s mischievous activities against the people of Zambia? For how long are they going to stifle dissent? For how long are they going to destroy private media in this country so that they leave us with only the yes Bwana ZNBC?”
MLC, WPFD ask IBA to rescind suspension of Prime TV licence
And the Media Liaison Committee (MLC) and the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) Zambia Committee have called on all media owners to stand in solidarity with Prime TV and ensure that the media sector does not tolerate the continued abuse of the licence powers IBA has over the broadcast sector.
MLC/WPFD chairperson Enock Ngoma has asked the IBA to rescind the suspension of Prime TV license.
Ngoma stated that the committee was disappointed with the behaviour of the IBA in suspending the operating licence of Prime TV and other radio stations critical of the PF government.
“MLC notes that the IBA action follows a series of events starting with the Patriotic Front party general secretary Davies Mwila chasing Prime TV news crew from covering their press conference, the PF publicly complaining of the TV Station being biased to the PF SG writing to the IBA complaining about Prime TV’s coverage,” Ngoma stated.
“MLC notes that in dealing with the Prime TV and PF Davies Mwila’s complaints, IBA completely disregarded their code of conduct and complaints procedure that requires that a complaint be made in writing to the media house and giving a news media 14 days to respond before the complaining individual writes to the IBA.”
He stated that the PF did not do this and so Prime TV was never accorded a chance to address the PF’s complaints and acts of chasing their journalists from covering its events.
“IBA in dealing with the Prime TV issue took sides and was quick to come to the defence of the PF SG instead of the media industry they legally regulate. MLC is aware of many complaints of biasness against the Public Broadcaster ZNBC and other PF aligned media houses and yet the IBA has not had a single meeting with these media houses to discuss these complaints or called for the submission of their recordings,” he stated.
Ngoma stated that the bias by IBA had been seen from the forced suspension of ‘Lusaka Hustle’ following a statement by the Minister of Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili without following laid down complaints procedure.
“MLC is further disappointed that the IBA led by a trained media expert, former journalist, and former university media trainer in the name of director Josephine Mapoma is now in the forefront in shutting down independent media platforms, reducing access to information, killing media diversity and pluralism in Zambia by suspending any media house, especially community radio stations, that are deemed to be anti-PF and anti the interest of the supporters of the PF,” he stated.
Ngoma stated that the IBA was now an enemy of independent media houses who were providing the much-needed broadcast platforms to independently-minded civil society and individuals, including the opposition parties.
“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 fair 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,” he stated.
Ngoma stated that it was injustice to have the IBA Board chaired by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information.
“MLC also notes the injustice of having the IBA board chaired by the 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 it its board is chaired by a civil servant from MIBS? MLC and the WPFD Zambia committee therefore call 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,” Ngoma stated.
He also called on Parliament, especially the Committee on Information and Broadcast Services, to take keen interests in questionable decisions by the IBA and its board.
“MLC and the WPFD Zambia committee call 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 fulfill the demands by the IBA,” stated Ngoma.