Green Party President Peter Sinkamba has advised Information Minister Dora Siliya to follow values and principles espoused in the Constitution of Zambia when dealing with the Prime TV Coronavirus fallout.
Mr. Sinkamba said government leaders should not use emotion to resolve issues but exercise executive authority in a manner compatible with values and principles espoused in Articles 8 and 90 of the Constitution of Zambia Amendment of 2016.
“You see, only three weeks ago, the President of the Republic of Zambia Edgar Chagwa Lungu addressed Parliament on implementation of national values and principles, and he emphasized the need for all of us as the nation to uphold these tenets in all our everyday work. So, one would expect that his ministers, who were in the House on the material day, paid attention to the president’s counsel. But alas, it appears that counsel fell on deaf ears.
“The Minister needs to be reminded once again that executive authority derives from the people of Zambia, and should be exercised in a manner compatible with the principles of social justice, and for the people’s well-being and benefit. This is what Article 90 stipulates.
“The ministers should also be reminded that democracy, constitutionalism, equity, social justice, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and integrity are some of the key tenets espoused by Article 8. So, each and every minister must muster these tenets.
“But from the manner in which the decision to blackout Prime TV was made by the Minister of Information Dora Siliya, it is very clear that these tenets are amiss in her conduct when dealing with the public. It is canonical that government leaders are guided by national values and principles espoused in Articles 8 and 90 of the Constitution every day. They need a small booklet on these values and principles to refer to in all their deeds,” Mr. Sinkamba stated.
But to banish the TV crew from covering all government events is unconstitutional and therefore illegal. It is purely an insult to Articles 8 and 90 of the Constitution and should therefore be rescinded forthwith,” Mr. Sinkamba said.
Mr. Sinkamba said in a democracy, people are bound to differ on opinions. He added that holding contrary views to government positions should not be misconstrued as enmity but cardinal ingredients of democracy.
“What the minister should have done is to convince Prime TV proprietor on the benefits of free airing of Coronavirus messages, and simply agree to disagree if they failed to convince one another. But to banish the TV crew from covering all government events is unconstitutional and therefore illegal. It is purely an insult to Articles 8 and 90 of the Constitution and should therefore be rescinded forthwith,” Mr. Sinkamba said.
“The other very important observation is that all TV and radio stations are regulated through the Independent Broadcasting Act of 2002. The Act provides for offences and redress mechanisms which must be followed by all, including Government ministries. If the Ministry of Information has a complaint against Prime TV, the procedures set out in the Act must be followed to the letter. I expect ministers to lead by example on the IBA,” Mr. Sinkamba added.
“The last issue concerns the removal of Prime TV from the Top Star platform. This is a digital migration issue and quite disheartening. The background to the digital migration is that Zambia, like other members of ITU, is a signatory to a treaty. Through the treaty, it was resolved that all UN member countries around the world must migrate from analogue to digital services within a specified period. One of the promises by ITU was to give potential entrants to broadcasting greater ease of entry, while viewers were promised many more channels to choose from, with more content. Therefore, removal of Prime TV from the Top Star platforms does not only defeat principles of the ITU Treaty but actually justifies why the public was apprehensive on awarding the digital migration contract to a Chinese company which could be easily manipulated government at will, especially during the run-up to elections ,” Mr. Sinkamba said.
Mr. Sinkamba said he will take up these issues with President Edgar Lungu within the course of next week.
“I am pretty sure President Lungu does not agree with what the Minister of Information is doing. I am hopeful that, as usual, the President will hear me on these issues,” he added.