THE Media Liaison Committee has reminded the PF government that there is a difference between taxpayers’ money and PF money.
Chairperson Enock Ngoma stated yesterday that the MLC had received with shock the statement from information and broadcasting minister Dora Siliya that the government had instructed its entire machinery not to do business with Prime Television and that those that already had contracts with the institution must terminate such contracts.
Ngoma said this action by the government was not only illegal but also immoral.
“It is illegal as it goes against the spirit of fair competition, consumer protection, and public procurement regulations. Why should the government disadvantage local business by instructing other customers not to buy or deal with a private company? This is immoral since Prime TV is a local Zambian company that offers a public service to Zambians as an employer mainly in the media industry and a taxpayer to the treasury through the various taxes collected by the Zambia Revenue Authority,” he stated.
“The MLC would like to remind the Zambian government, in case they are not aware, that the government business and finance that they want to deny Prime TV are derived from the very taxes collected from Zambians who include Prime TV and its staff, and users of Prime TV media services.”
Ngoma stated that Prime TV as a Zambian company, duly registered and in compliance with PACRA under the Companies Act and IBA under the Independence Broadcasting Authority Act, was a taxpayer and employer of many Zambians.
He stated that Prime TV was also a provider of vital information, news, education and entertainment through its various media platforms to millions of Zambians who too are voters, taxpayers of tax that is enjoyed by the same government that is trying to deny business to this media institution.
“Prime TV as a Zambia company is not expected to be denied business opportunities by the very Zambian government that daily collects taxes from it. The MLC is aware that this is not the first time that the Zambian government is using its financial muscle from taxpayers’ money to kill a private Zambian media by denying them business access to its services,” he stated.
“In the past, the MMD government stifled the growth of local media by secretly instructing government wings and departments not to advertise or grant interviews to the private media. This was done to The Post, The Monitor, Radio Phoenix, and Breeze FM, among others, and Honourable [Dora] Siliya was again in government. It is therefore not surprising that she has picked up from where she left at the time to bring confusion to the media.”
Ngoma stated that it was also depressing to realise that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services had seasoned media practitioners who should have advised against the decision to sideline Prime TV.
“Hon Siliya herself is a seasoned broadcaster while the permanent secretary Mr Amos Malupenga is a renowned journalist and former managing editor at the country’s largest independent newspaper that time, The Post. Naturally, one would not expect such hostility from these two media personalities,” he stated.
“Studies have shown that African governments are in the habit of using government resources to disadvantage private media and private companies that are providing services to the opposition parties, CSOs or citizens deemed critical of the government.
“The MLC would like to further remind the PF government that there is a difference between taxpayers’ money and PF money. The party and its cadres are free to tell their own private companies and businesses not to advertise in Prime TV if they deem it not to be to their benefit. But they cannot use taxpayers’ money collected through the government machinery and government departments to harm the business interests of Prime TV or disadvantage it from fair competition as a private company,” he stated.
Ngoma appealed for the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce and Trade and Ministry of Justice, among others, that understand good governance and business environments to advise their colleagues on the illegality of the action and how it kills local businesses in Zambia who are the very sources of job creation and taxes that “our heavily indebted government” dearly needs.
He stated that the government action also contributes to Zambia being downgraded into junk status among investors and those seeking to set up businesses as it sends a negative message that a group of individuals abuse taxpayers’ money to kill local businesses.
Ngoma stated that it was also hypocritical that the same government could claim to support local entrepreneurs when in fact not.
“To operate a media company in Zambia has become a thankless and non-profitable job as the government is always going all out to overtax the news print and broadcast equipment. The MLC, therefore, strongly calls on government to rescind its decision on Prime TV and stop blackmailing independent media with taxpayer’s money,” stated Ngoma.
“Prime TV is equally a taxpayer that should not be segregated. If they have any regard for media freedom, let them cancel this despotic decision. Let us always engage in dialogue before taking drastic measures.”