Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Zambia's censorship broadcasting regulator, IBA, bans Prime TV for a month for doing critical reporting of authoritarian president Edgar Lungu's government.

Zambia's censorship broadcasting regulator, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has banned and shut down the Prime TV channel for a month that has been critical of Zambia's government.

The decision by the Zambian government and its censorship body comes a few weeks after the IBA ordered the apparently "gay" show Lusaka Hustle off the air in February 2019 and ordered MultiChoice Zambia and M-Net's Zambezi magic (DStv 160) channel to censor it.

Lusaka Hustle returned to the Zambezi Magic schedule after the censorship regulator couldn't specify and didn't want to say exactly what was wrong and triggered the original ban.

Last month a high-ranking Zambian police official threatened a Prime TV news presenter.

Prime TV - started 7 years ago by a former cameraman at Zambia's state broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) - has publicly exposed corruption and done critical reporting of authoritarian president Edgar Lungu's government.

"The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) resolved to suspend the license with immediate effect for 30 days," Josephine Mapoma, IBA board secretary doing the Zambian government's bidding said at Lusaka news conference on Monday morning.

"During the suspension period the station is expected to conduct in-house training in basic journalism, ethics and news script writing," said Josephine Mapoma.

Josephine Mapoma claimed that Prime TV was doing "unbalanced coverage, opinionated news, material likely to incite violence and use of derogatory language" without giving any evidence or explaining the IBA and Zambia's clampdown on what's left of freedom of speech in the Southern African country. 

Zambia's censorship tsar, the Ministry of Information permanent secretary, Chanda Kasolo, hilariously claimed that in the censorship of Prime TV "there was no political interference involved and that the decision comes after thorough consultations and engagements with other stakeholders".

The censorship of Prime TV comes after Davis Mwila, secretary-general of Zambia's ruling Patriotic Front who also recently banned Prime TV from press conferences, complained to the censorship body about Prime TV's alleged "biased coverage and unethical reporting of political opinions and beliefs disguised as news".

Gerald Shawa, Prime TV director, says Zambia's censorship shop shut down Prime TV without giving the TV channel a hearing or a right of reply first. Prime TV employs more than 60 journalists and support staff.

Besides Prime TV, Zambia's IBA also abruptly censored and took Valley FM Radio off the air for 2 months, for allegedly unspecified "unprofessional conduct" and failing to "balance and moderate a discussion programme" and revoked the licences of the Ngoma and Kafue radio stations.

Zambia's Non-governmental Gender Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) in a statement demanded that Prime TV's censorship be stopped and the TV channel be returned to air, saying "the decision by the IBA is not only ultra vires the republican constitution, but is also draconian and reminiscent of totalitarian regimes".

"It is NGOCC's considered view that the suspension appears to be intended to intimidate and muzzle the media to instil fear in terms of independent and unbiased reporting."

"We demand that the IBA should immediately lift the ban and allow Prime Television to operate freely."