We are disappointed with the decision of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to suspend licenses for Muvi TV, Komboni and Itezhi Tezhi Radio citing professional misconduct and threats to national security.
It is our view that the said suspension of licenses for the three stations is extreme and has a negative effect on the flow of information as well as a chilling effect on the practice of journalism as it amounts to arbitrary censorship of dissenting views.
It is worrying that there seems to be a trend in which private media houses seen to carry dissenting views have been targeted and persecuted using various laws and processes as was the case with the closure of the Post Newspaper and now with Muvi TV, Komboni Radio and Radio Itezhi Tezhi.
It is further worrying that no concrete dialogue was attempted by the IBA to persuade the stations to comply as provided in section 29 (7) of the 2010 IBA amendment act in relation to the sections invoked by the authority which provide for due process and warning prior to suspension or cancellation.
The IBA’s decision to wait till the elapsing of the pre, during and post-election period to crack the whip for violations they claim could pose a threat to national security raises suspicions as it leaves the authority’s conduct open to speculation given the current political events.
We strongly condemn the heavy presence of armed riot Police at Muvi TV who have since sealed off the entire building, denied access to management and staff and further arrested and charged some members of staff with criminal trespass.
A similar situation is currently obtaining at the other two stations according to the latest reports we have received.
A team comprising MISA Zambia and Media liaison committee officials has since met with IBA Board Chairperson, Brigadier General Justin Mutale, Director-General Josephine Mapoma and management of the authority and demanded the following:
I. That IBA immediately lifts the suspension of the licenses for the three stations to allow them operate pending the hearing to demonstrate the institution’s independence and autonomy, a demand which the IBA has taken into consideration.
II. That the date for the hearing be brought forward to allow for a speedy and amicable resolution of the matter without necessarily denying the citizens access to information and dissemination of alternative views.
It has been agreed that the IBA engages the Inspector-General of Police to immediately withdraw the Police officers that have besieged the stations thereby restricting access and disrupting operations while the demands are to be effected as a show of the authority’s independence.
We appeal to Inspector General Kakoma Kanganja to desist from being used for the achievement of political aims as shown by the overzealous action of Police officers at Muvi TV, Komboni Radio and Itezhi Tezhi Radio which leaves much to be desired.
MISA has alerted regional and international agencies and the diplomatic corps over the deterioration of media freedom in Zambia while engaging the three affected stations to offer assistance in order for the situation to be resolved as quickly as possible.
The Inspector-General of Police should know that the stations are not crime scenes or riot fronts where he should unleash such a battalion of riot Police to instil fear in the media personnel at the said stations. We demand that Mr. Kanganja immediately withdraws his troops from the media houses and unconditionally release the workers that have been detained for no reason.
We call on all media houses and practitioners to stand united and defend the freedom of the media against the oppression observed. Today it may be the Post Newspaper, Muvi TV, Komboni Radio or Itezhi Tezhi radio but it is only a matter of time before the axe lands on another media house.
We also encourage media houses to exercise maximum professionalism and remain steadfast in safeguarding the public interest.
Media Liaison Committee