PRIME Television limited has petitioned the Lusaka High Court over the decision by government and its agents to cease all cooperation with the TV station after its proprietor Gerald Shawa informed information permanent secretary that it could not run free adverts on COVID-19 due to financial challenges.
Prime TV has cited the Attorney General Likando Kalaluka, Topstar Communications company limited and MultiChoice Zambia Limited, seeking a declaration that the decision by government to cease all transactions and business with it was unconstitutional.
It is seeking an order that Topstar and MultiChoice cannot remove it from the platforms they manage at the direction of government.
Prime TV is also seeking among other reliefs an order quashing the decision of the Minister of Information Dora Siliya to cease all cooperation with it and compensation for loss of income and business resulting from the statement of Topstar.
Prime TV said the decision by Topstar to cease business operation with it citing Siliya’s statement hindered its ability to receive information and disseminate it to the general public.
It said the decision by government undermined the principles of a democratic state as it was denying the viewers critical and important governance information.
According to an affidavit in support of the petition sworn by Shawa on March 13, 2020, information permanent secretary Amos Malupenga held a meeting for media houses and media heads where he (Malupenga) requested media houses to give free airtime for the broadcasting of adverts informing the public about coronavirus outbreak.
Shawa said he stood up and informed Malupenga that his TV station could not afford to broadcast free adverts due to economic challenges.
He said Malupenga indicated that media houses that did not cooperate with his ministry would be isolated like The Post Newspaper.
Shawa said on March 17, the government, through a ministerial statement by its chief spokesperson Dora Siliya, issued a directive stating that government and its agent shall not conduct any media transactions with Prime TV.
He said the directive further indicated that no public officer would appear on Prime TV whether paid or not.
It stated that the said directive had limited access to Prime TV’s audience through platforms such as Topstar and MultiChoice that ZNBC had shares in.
Shawa lamented that TopStar had already blocked access to Prime TV on its platforms in a letter it addressed to his TV station dated March 27, 2020.
He contended that the said ministerial directive would restrict Prime TV’s access to information from government and any public officials which would affect the information that could be disseminated to its viewership.
Shawa and his company charged that the decision by government was an infringement on the rights of the TV station and its viewership to access information without interference as well as disseminate information.
LCK Chambers are representing Prime TV.