Lusaka, 09 April 2020: Panos Institute Southern Africa is saddened by the cancellation of Prime Television’s broadcasting license, and calls on the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to rescind its decision and reinstate one of Zambia’s leading privately owned media houses.
In a letter to Prime TV proprietor Gerald Shawa on 09 April 2020, the IBA Board Secretary/Director General Josephine Mapoma said the TV station’s broadcasting license had been cancelled “with immediate effect”. The IBA said the cancellation of Prime TV’s broadcasting license was in line with provisions of Section 29 of the IBA Acts of 2010 which provides that the IBA Board may cancel a broadcasting license if “the cancellation of the license of necessary in the interest of public safety, security, peace, welfare or good order …the Board considers it appropriate to do so”.
In the few years that the station has been on air, Prime TV has established itself as a medium of choice for many citizens, and its closure will be a blow to those who rely on the station as their preferred platform. The station also employs many Zambian professionals, and its closure will affect their livelihoods.
All media houses be they community or mainstream, print, broadcast and online, public and private media houses have a role to play in supporting the achievement of Zambia’s national development priorities. At a time as this when the country is putting maximum effort to address the corona virus (COVID-19) public health emergency, the country needs a diverse array of media to provide timely and relevant information to a wider section of the Zambian populace to enable timely informed decisions and appropriate actions. The closure of Prime TV is therefore badly timed as it will slow the free flow of information on the country’s efforts to contain an unprecedented public health emergence.
The cancellation of Prime TV’s license will limit citizens’ access to critical information, thereby limiting their ability to effectively participate in informed decision making on matters affecting them. In addition, the decision by IBA is backtracking the country’s media pluralism and development achievements since liberalisation of the airwaves.
Panos therefore appeals to the IBA to reconsider its decision and explore other remedial actions to address identified concerns the authority may have on Prime TV while the media house continues to broadcast.
Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf)