With varying views flooding cyberspace on the suspension of the broadcasting licences of privately owned Muvi Television, Komboni Radio and Itezhi Tezhi Radio over alleged professional misconduct Panos Institute Southern Africa has angled in on the debate.
Panos Institute has called for the Independent Broadcasting Authority to rescind its decision and instead engage the erring media houses.
Executive Director Lilian Kiefer says with the IBA Act providing for an appeal to the minister it could be difficult since there is currently no ministers in place due to the process halted by the legal challenge to the election of the President.
Earlier in the day a MISA Zambia delegation had a meeting with the IBA
Below is the PANOS Statement:
Lusaka, 23 August 2016:
Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) is deeply concerned with the suspension of broadcast licenses of three private media houses – Muvi Television, Komboni Radio and Itezhi Tezhi Radio Station – by Zambia’s Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) for alleged unprofessional conduct.
Clamping down on media space or banning selected media houses cannot instil professionalism in the media sector. It actually has potential to lead to impunity and rebellious reactions from the media that may fuel clandestine broadcasting and unethical journalism. Instead of taking such drastic action, the IBA should have engaged the affected media houses and helped them address the imbalances and whatever issues that were the basis of the suspension of these broadcast licenses.
In a sensitive and highly politically divided period like the one that Zambia is currently undergoing, citizens must be allowed unfettered access to professionally packaged and balanced news and information on issues of concern through their preferred media platforms.
Access to information allows the public to effectively participate in informed decision making on matters affecting them. The public’s freedom of expression should override any discomfort and fear that Zambia might have in any situation and topic.
Free flow of information and an informed citizenry puts to shame the work of propagandists and other one sided communicators who thrive on media black outs and limited information channels.
Numerous research on the role of the media in peace building and conflict resolution identify the need for media space for various publics to engage, discuss and debate contentious issues affecting them.
For example, Ajai K. Rai a Research Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in India says: “In the area of conflict resolution, the media can really play a major role in enlightening the public opinion and in helping people take cognisance of the need for peace for their overall welfare”. Rai further states that “In actual or potential conflict situations the role of the media is crucial.”
Since the IBA Act provides for an appeal to the minister who at the moment is not in office, PSAf therefore appeals to the IBA to rescind its decisions and fully engage with the editors of these media houses so that the identified lapses can be corrected as regards to the coverage of emotive topics in Zambia right now such as regionalism, electoral malpractice and media biases.
Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf)