Topstar has announced it has removed Prime Television from all its platforms.
The move follows the directive by Minister of Information and Broadcasting Dora Siliya that all government ministries and other entities must cease any business with the station.
Topstar Acting Chief Executive Officer Liu Yingnan said in a letter dated 27th March 2020 addressed to the TV station Chief Executive Officer that since government has some shares in Topstar, it could not continue to host Prime TV.
Prime Television Proprietor Gerald Shawa recently apologized to the government and Zambians over his refusal to air messages on COVID 19.
In a meeting Organised by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting chaired by Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga to engaged media owners and News Heads, Mr Shawa said his station would not air any messages on COVID 19 without government paying anything.
The move prompted government to cease to cooperate with Prime Television Station until further notice.
Ms Siliya, had said the development meant that government and any of its agents shall not conduct any media transactions with the television station.
Ms Siliya, who is also Chief Government Spokesperson, added that there shall be no appearance of public officers and officials on the television station’s programmes whether paid for or otherwise, and categorically stated that journalists from Prime Television shall not be invited to cover any government-related business.
There is still no comment from Government on whether the stance taken by the Information Minister will be reversed after Mr. Shawa apologised
Meanwile, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) appeals to signal distributor Top Star Communications Company Limited to reconsider its decision to remove Prime Television from its platforms, and immediately reinstate the station on the Top Star bouquet.
On Friday, 27 March 2020, Top Star said the company was “hereby ceasing all forms of cooperation” with Prime TV, and that they were removing the station from the Top Star platform “with immediate effect”. The company said this action was taken in line with a Ministry of Information directive for government agencies to terminate all business transactions with the privately own television station.
Panos believes private media actors such as Prime TV have an important role to play in advancing Zambia’s development, complementing the national broadcaster and other information actors to ensure increased availability of and access to media and communication platforms by the most affected and most vulnerable groups, and ensuring that information is effectively used to drive development.
Given Prime TV’s position as a leading private broadcaster in Zambia, the station provides an important platform for citizens to access and share information on important issues. The removal of Prime TV from Top Star may have far reaching negative effects on the station’s employees and on the many citizens who rely on the TV station as their preferred channel for accessing information.
At a time when the whole nation is focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, the media has a duty to inform and educate citizens, raising their awareness about the pandemic and providing them with information enabling them to take the necessary precautions as guided by the government, through the Ministry of Health and other agencies. Removal of Prime TV from the Top Star platform will limit the station’s outreach, and therefore limit the extent to which citizens can access and share information on the national COVID-19 response and other national developmental issues.
Instead of taking such severe action, and considering that Prime TV management has since apologised to the government, Panos encourages the Top Star management to pursue other amicable ways to address any concerns around Prime TV.