We strongly condemn the closure of Prime Television following the cancellation of their broadcasting license by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA).
And we demand the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of their licence.
The police have taken over the premises of Prime Television station and sealed the place. Over 15 police officers, heavily armed, are guarding the place and have chased the workers.
This is lawlessness and impunity from a reckless government. What right do they have to take over private property. From what we know they have cancelled a broadcasting licence, that does not give them the power to take over a citizen’s property. This lawlessness, lack of respect for citizens’ property rights is very annoying.
It is evident that the targeting, victimization and now closure of Prime TV is not accidental nor an isolated occurrence. It is instead, part of a consistent campaign to destroy and ultimately eradicate all credible independent media that exists to educate and inform the Zambian people while refusing to be compromised by the government.
They have done so much wrong that their preoccupation now is not to correct those wrongs or to govern but to do whatever it takes to remain in power and, that way, stop their possible prosecution.
Over the last 6 years, media freedom in Zambia has been eroded. This government has had great success in snuffing out critical journalism.
We retaliate that this breakdown of media freedom in our country is closely related to the broader decline of democracy. Although the media is not always the first institution to be attacked when a country’s leadership takes an antidemocratic turn, repression of free media is a strong indication that other political rights and civil liberties are in grave danger.
A free and independent media sector that can keep the population informed and hold leaders to account is as crucial for a strong and sustainable democracy as free and fair elections. Without it, citizens cannot make informed decisions about how they are ruled, and abuse of power, which is all but inevitable in any society, cannot be exposed and corrected.
There is an obvious tension between journalists who are attempting to perform their proper democratic function and antidemocratic politicians that are determined to retain power. The innovative and courageous work of Prime TV and other independent news media outlets offers hope that even in the most desperate circumstances, those who are committed to distributing information in the public interest can find a way. But these journalists alone cannot address the needs of millions of Zambians who still have access to little more than their government’s narrative and must rely on their own instincts and observations to assess the claims of corrupt and abusive leaders.
We have an individual and collective duty to ensure that the actions of this government do not excuse or inspire violations of press freedom and democracy. We all have an individual and collective role to play in maintaining media freedom. We must all defend uncompromising independent media such as Prime TV and our democracy!
Issued by Fred M’membe, Press Freedom Hero of the United Nations affiliated International Press Institute and Socialist Party President on behalf of the Politburo.
April 10, 2020