NATIONAL Democratic Congress leader Chishimba Kambwili says the closure of Prime Television by the PF government is illegal, an abuse of state institutions which should not be entertained by Zambians.
He has appealed to the diplomatic community to immediately put pressure on the “president of the PF, the government, to rescind their decision of cancelling the licence of Prime TV”.
Reacting to the Independent Broadcasting Authority’s cancellation of Prime Television licence, Kambwili said the act was not in the interest of the nation but PF’s scheme to rig the 2021 elections.
He asked the entire board of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to resign on moral grounds.
“First and foremost I am reliably informed by two board members that the decision was not done in the interest of the nation neither was it backed by law but it was just an instruction from State House and the Ministry of Information. The board must resign because instead of following the laid down procedures and the law, they decide to succumb to pressure by the minister and State House. What they have done has no backing of the law,” Kambwili said in an interview.
“The idea of behaving like this will put President [Edgar] Lungu as the most gallant president Zambia has ever had, a dictator that Zambia has ever had because in the history of Zambia it is only him who has closed two media houses so far – The Post and now Prime TV. What is he scared of? Let us learn to coexist and accept divergent views. If you just want people to be listening to your own voice always then you are a wrong leader because a good leader listens to criticism and is able to make amends based on the criticism.”
He said section 29 of the IBA Act which was quoted as a basis to revoke Prime Television’s licence did not in any way prove either how exactly the station was promoting terrorism, doing something illegal that affected state institutions, endangering state security and endangering the sovereignty of the state as provided in the section.
“It can never be evoked if there is no evidence to prove that the station is involved in the things I have mentioned. Therefore, they have abused that provision. And even if they have evoked that provision, the laid down procedure is that IBA should write to the station giving details of the involvement of those four things I have mentioned and ask them to show cause why their licence cannot be terminated,” he said. “In short they need to be heard by giving their side of the story of abrogation of licence provisions. All what the board did was to evoke the provision of Article 29 of the IBA. In doing that the board abused their authority and failed to live up to the provisions of that Act. Therefore, if the board cannot observe their legislation or cannot interpret their own law, they are not fit to be a board and they should resign on moral grounds.”
Kambwili said the closure of Prime TV was nothing but a political scheme by PF to start rigging the votes ahead of 2021 by silencing the voice of the people because they knew that the station covered everyone including the opposition political parties.
“If you read the letter that they wrote to Prime TV it will even show you that the letter was irregular. Prime TV has not been charged with any case which they included in their letter. Now how do they write that in the letter? Even the way the letter was written was all illegal and wrong. We call upon the President, Edgar Chagwa, Dora Siliya, Amos Malupenga to advise the board to rescind that decision and give back the licence to Prime TV,” he said.
Kambwili noted that there has been a vigorous outcry by the people although IBA was saying the decision to revoke the licence of Prime TV was done in public interest.
“In whose interest if the public is condemning the closure of Prime TV? They have done that in their own interest and against the interest of the people and that should not be allowed. The mere fact that [Gerald] Shawa (Prime TV proprietor) spoke on behalf of independent media houses alluded to the fact that they were not ready to give free adverts does not amount to the offence under the IBA. In any case Shawa was speaking on behalf of all broadcasting organisations, why go and target him alone because the associations had made it very clear that Shawa was speaking on behalf of the organization and he was merely a communication tool of the government?” he asked. “But because they want to close Prime TV the way they closed The Post newspaper, they have gone ahead to do something illegal. I appeal to the diplomatic community to immediately put pressure on the president of the PF, the government, to rescind their decision of cancelling the licence of Prime TV.”
Kambwili also said a mere cancellation of a licence cannot make the State takeover the premises of the private entity the way the Police have.
He said a cancellation means stopping broadcasting and not a company takeover.
“Like what has happened with Prime TV, the police have taken possession, removed the employees…and by the way that premises also houses Joy FM which has not been sanctioned. It has to be allowed to be operational. I demand that the police must hand over the premises to the owners. They have stopped the broadcasting but leave their premises and equipment alone,” Kambwili said.
He said silencing of Prime TV was a timing for 2021 elections because the PF knew that the opposition would be heard and Zambians would know the truth.
“No wonder they have closed Prime TV and intimidate other media houses not to cover the opposition,” said Kambwili.