Green Party leader Peter Sinkamba
Green Party leader Peter Sinkamba

By Peter Sinkamba

On Monday, March 4, 2019, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) suspended the broadcasting licence for Prime TV. According to the IBA press statement, the TV licence for the station was suspended for 30 days for ‘exhibiting unprofessional elements in its broadcasting through unbalanced coverage, opinionated news, material likely to incite violence and use of derogatory language.’

In the meantime, in November and December 2018, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court delivered two landmark judgments concerning unbalanced coverage, opinionated news and use of derogatory language towards the court. The Supreme Court went to great lengths to elaborate contempt rules and liability of persons concerning opinionated news on matters before court; use of derogatory language against the court; and making serious allegations against the court.

The IBA decision has reignited public debate the subject matter. There is no doubt that the welfare or good order in the country is likely to suffer prejudice if such vices remain unregulated. The Supreme Court elaborated on this in detail.

As the Green Party, we support the view that both private and public media needs to be cleansed of unbalanced coverage, opinionated news, material likely to incite violence, and use of derogatory language. Whilst the judiciary has in-built mechanisms to deal with perpetrators, we support the view that a fair and just system needs to be put in place to curb the vice among private and public media institutions alike.

The first point of engagement on this issue, as Green Party concerns the existing regulatory framework for the media in the nation. We think that the IBA Act, which is the principal regulatory framework on the subject matter, is biased against private media. In this regard, we think that there is need to repeal the IBA Act for the simple reason that it is discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. An unconstitutional law is illegal. Both private and public media must be subjected to the same relevant rules on unbalanced coverage, opinionated news, material likely to incite violence, and use of derogatory language. Crucially, both private and public media must be regulated by the same standard, and the same body. At the moment IBA regulates private media content. No statutory body regulates public media content. In our view, such a discriminatory and obnoxious standard needs to be immediately addressed.

The second point is that bulk of the rules and regulation of the media must be contained in the election, referenda and political parties’ legislation. While election legislation at the moment may not specifically target the media, many rules of general application are nonetheless applicable to the media, including online media. However, several reports concerning post-2016 by-elections reveal the mess that arises when media is not supervised by regulators and commissions, including press associations, election commission, polling commissions (conflict resolution committees) and data protection commissions. This point justifies our call for abolishment of the IBA Act and in its place entrench rules, regulations, and institutional frameworks within election, referenda and political parties’ legislation to curb the vice.

Furthermore, while the outcome of ad hoc rules which were applicable to broadcast and other media during 2016 elections was quite considerable, there is need for reform. Instead of relying on ad hoc rules, there is need for reform from ad hoc to enduring regulation. Two good examples are the discretion of ZNBC and Prime TV concerning the allocation of airtime for political parties, and the allocation of party-political broadcasts after the 2016 elections. One lesson learnt is that discretion, when left unregulated, can be abused. ZNBC and Prime TV have undoubtedly abused discretion. Moving forward, media discretion needs to be immediately addressed. We think that media regulation should include rules governing “silence periods”, “opinion polls”, “political news”, and “political advertising”. Notably, a system needs to be put in place for enforcement of rules on data transparency and protection during election periods.

The rules should be extended to transparency in the proceedings of the Constitutional Court during presidential election petitions. In this regard, it may helpful to refer to presidential elections the recent 2017 and 2018 held in Kenya and Zimbabwe whereby petition proceedings were covered live on TV and online media. This considerably helped preserve the integrity of the respective courts. Not only that. This also helped to ensure transparency in free expression of the will of the people and demonstrate sincerity of the vote outcome. This will also eliminate the risk of being cited for unbalanced coverage, opinionated news and use of derogatory language towards the court, as the people will follow court proceedings live and not through opinions of other persons.

Finally, it is worth reiterating the point that legislation of general application, such as legislation governing elections and political parties, is where the rules for broadcasting, print and online media during elections need to be found, as opposed to stand-alone rules like the IBA Act. At the moment, the Electoral Processes Act of 2016, for example, lacks as section that addresses media rules. This lacuna needs to be remedied. Furthermore, Government is contemplating enacting political parties’ legislation. We suggest that a section dedicated to rules on fair coverage of political parties by broadcasting, print and online media before, during and after elections needs to be included.

The Author is a the President of the Opposition Greens Party in Zambia

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27 COMMENTS

  1. As long as news writers, most of whom aren’t even qualified journalists, are paid peanuts and continue to jostle for food and drinks at functions, only those with money will be covered and the coverage shall always be tilted. Reporters are starving, they can’t even unveil their plight. When it comes to scrounging, they are worse than policemen

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    • PF’s allergy to anyone with an opposing view is the final kicks of a dying horse. When cadres start giving instructions to Govt institutions, police, judiciary, speaker, then you know that governance is eroded.
      – Is it coincidence that the suspension comes few days after “Mr 6-points” Davies Mwila chased away Prime Tv reporters?
      – Who pays IBA? Is it PF or the Zambian people?

      The best lesson learnt is that Zambians are fed up with biased DEAD en BC. All bloggers from all social media indicated that even if Prime TV is closed down, they’ll never switch back to DEAD en BC.

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    • I stopped reading Sinkamba’s articles full of human organs and dead bodies. So dark, Zambians will accuse of satanic, especially that Chi P.S. chomba.

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    • So in most cases when I read your articles, I always fascinated and full of praise for you.
      Imagine for a second or two a situation where we only had private TV stations from say 20 years. I can rest assure you that the Zambia you see today would have been worse than Baghdad immediate America and ally bombing.
      The question I keep asking myself is why do you people alway demonize ZNBC, my ZNBC, the most responsible Broadcaster of ages whose heart is as a mother’s when you are in opposition and caress, date, romance, use when you get in power?
      Yes when you speak as an opposition leader, ZNBC a platform that disseminates Government programs becomes Allien. ZNBC is never divisive. Don’t talk that bad about my ZNBC.

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    • YES so called DEADNBC TURNS ZNBC WHEN AN OPPOSITION PART CROSSES THE FLOOR.
      Careful what you wish for.
      The recent test for MUVI TV and PRIME TV shows remnants of serious indications of concerns of trying to create a rival ZNBC or whatever you would like to call it. Let’s not be swayed into thinking about ZNBC politically. Face it Government needs a platform to deliver information freely to the public. If the private TV stations should draw a line between the need to remain profitable from angry politicians and embracing ethics inculcated in journalists from schools they attend. The IBA is fine, it’s just the human elements that dent ZNBC and private media stations.
      You can’t be thinking of creating a rival ZNBC, just create normal TV stations. If ZNBC is abrogating the law, it is…

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    • … not distant to have confessions of transgression from ailing human elements like the ones you got from repentant Shawa.

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    • APART FROM ACCUSATION OF UNBALANCED COVERAGE DURING ELECTIONS, TELL ME OF INCIDENCES WHERE ZNBC INCITES VIOLENCE, INSULTS AND MAKES WILD ALLEGATIONS. ALLEGATIONS OF UNBALANCED COVERAGE ARE JUST A HUMAN ELEMENT THAT YOU HAVE FAILED TO HANDLE USING LEGAL MEANS.
      I support the suspension of PRIME TV solely for allowing the insulting of other political players, inciting citizens against Government and largely for being irresponsible. These you can’t say happens at ZNBC. If you say otherwise you are a pathological liar.
      A private TV station cannot be seen to undermine sound Government only political elements does this, you cannot allow it either. Therefore even in your call for a reformed IBA Act, even you cannot support tribal TV stations like Green Party TV or UPNDEAD TV in the name of…

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    • African telecoms billionaire Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim once stated that the difference between the City of Zurich and Lilongwe is simply leadership and Good governance …here is the case of IBA which is a typical example of appalling governance and leadership; I mean the Chairman of IBA is a PF cadre and the Director is too weak as she can kicked out OR intimidated like the FIC Director….we wonder if there will be any Report published. PF have destroyed everything and we have let them do it …here is a Grade 9 Davis Mwila the chap didn’t have G12 certificate and he causing all this trouble…that’s how cadres have become so powerful, surely what can you tell a dull chap such as Mwila?

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  2. These ideas need constructive debate and action in the constitutionally mandated body that can change our laws-PARLIAMENT. Sadly green party is a social media party with no presence in the house. Its no body’s fault they haven’t convinced Zambians to give them that chance but themselves. Political parties need to reorganize themselves.

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  3. Well written article that balanced and informing. The writer penned with intent to advise without siding with anyone; just stating things the way they are supposed to be. in-fact the lacunas are exposed by time relation and its just right to work on the observations that is if intensive debate on the matter is allowed to avoid repeating the weaknesses. This is what checks and balances mean. Not ukubwatabwatafye

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  4. What I pick from this article is that the Independent Broadcasting Authority regulates independent media and not public media. This is what Green Party wants changed. In the meantime ignorant trib.al commentators expect the IBA to regulate ZNBC, how? First work with Sinkamba to correct the laws. Start by replacing IBA with a Broadcasting Regulatory Authority which will regulate ALL broadcasting.
    Otherwise your comment will remain nothing but trib.al comments from trib.al brains.

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    • ZNBC maybe biased but it doesn’t slander people who may not defend themselves. The MMD promised to liberalize the ZNBC but instead they even made more use of it than the Unip government. Whether we like it or not any party that forms government will always maximize their use of the national broadcaster. This is a fact. Those in opposition are free to use other means but must not resort to tactics that may bring chaos in the country.

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    • ZNBC IS A HERO – YOUR HERO, MY HERO.
      It has never sown discontent.
      SINKAMBA’s t. o.m.f.o.o.l.e.r.y
      Are you sure you’re being honest with yours right now?
      Ever asked yourself why CK is acting like a lunatic? He is trying to outsmart everyone, control and resetting media headlines.
      Wonder why coup d’etat happens at TV and RADIO stations?
      Answer
      Jim Morrison — ‘Whoever controls the media, controls the mind’.
      INTERPRETATION
      “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind” … The quote talks about how news reporters, the government, and anyone else who has control over the media, is “controlling” your mind by influencing your thoughts and opinions on certain topics. It is in the adulterous nature lf the mouth and the ears.

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  5. News should not reflect an opinion but should simply report what happened, what people said. The report should not put in his feelings or lie like. ..sources which did not want to be identified. Just report don’t influence.

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  6. I will keep asking why hasn’t the LAZ formed a committee to scrutinize Zambia ‘s numerous unconstitutional laws?
    Zambian lawyers are too selfish! They only think of enriching themselves. Just look at Lungu
    Yes An unconstitutional law is illegal. Another unconstitutional law is that of criminal defamation protecting the president. It should be struck off our statutes because it is unconstitutional

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  7. You can’t achieve an ideal flawless society because you’re only mere mortals. What works for you today, takes you to the next day needing you to finetune your next, next day. That’s the way we get bye.
    You should have been in parliament to formulate private member’s bills.

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  8. Newspapers have an editorial section in which the paper makes it known on how it stands on a particular issue.

    Similarly, even television station can offer an opinion on a particular issue. So there was nothing strange or new in what Prime tv was doing at the end of the news segment. The only difference is theirs is electronic and not print. This is where Prime tv is said to have had opinionated news content. It was actually their editorial.

    In developed countries, I’d like to believe some television stations have this segment where the station’s position is made known regarding a particular story.

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    • Ba Norah I hope you do watch PTV. What we’re talking about is not the opinion slot but the actual news itself. I always refer to the over a hundred Tonga speaking teachers who were as reported by prime news retired in National interest from one school. I watched the news bit personally. Again I ask how possible is it that one tribe can have such a number of teachers at a single school. If it’s true then something is terribly wrong. It’s better to be objective at times. Personally I only check for headlines on TVZ because the news is boring.

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    • Was it identified as such? Or was it hiding under news. They are not the first broadcaster to editorialise. DeadNBC used to do it all the time during Kaunda s rule

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  9. With an editorial comment, you can not, in a manner of speaking, sit on the fence. It’s either something is right or wrong, left or right. There’s no middle ground.

    But because we live in Africa and in Zambia in particular and being ruled by uneducated people, Prime tv is charged with airing opinionated news.

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  10. Oh! I for to emphasis this. That an opinionated content is the same as an editorial comment.

    Someone out there needs to be educated on this especially Davies Mwila and Edgar Lungu. Take a cursory look at Newspapers, you will find where it’s written “COMMENT” or “OPINION”.

    And so with Prime tv, it was their house style to offer an opinion on various matters and there was no need for those in government to foam at the mouth. This is normal practice in Journalism.

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  11. Dont just renew the broadcasting licences for those that dont play to term snd conditions, please also put a limit to how many of these stations the country can have. Those chaps who claim to be diaspora must realise that Zambians are the most travelled people in Africa and know more than those slaves living on borrowed time in diaspora. For instance, in US, Fox News is pro- Republicans and is extremely biased. Do you challenge it imwe mwebasha imwe?

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  12. What ideology do we pursue, communism – where there is NEWS blackout and citizens look over their shoulders every hour or a mix of socialism and capitalism – where democracy is about the rule and respect of law.
    The problem with 3rd world communities is poverty that overtakes and ride on good sense of judgement. ku la sabaila fye as long as ones stomach is full

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  13. @ Lacoste ..Kikikikikikiki ! ….
    Well analysed Mr Sinkamba. The objectives approach ,is , at the very least , the level we should be debating at. Problem is that cadre mentality has limited the scope .

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