Lusaka, Zambia, June 16, 2021 — Zambia’s broadcasting regulator, the Independent Broadcasting Authority, must stop harassing private broadcaster Muvi TV and should publicly reaffirm the editorial independence of media outlets ahead of the August 12 general elections, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On May 28, the IBA found Muvi TV guilty of professional misconduct in violation of the IBA [Amendment] Act of 2010, a law regulating the broadcasting industry, after the outlet aired interviews with opposition politicians on May 16 and April 30, according to a statement issued by IBA, which CPJ reviewed; Mabvuto Phiri, Muvi TV’s director of news and current affairs, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app; and local news website Zambia Reports. The IBA threatened to revoke or suspend Muvi TV’s license if it violated the law again, according to the same sources.
As a penalty, the IBA ordered Muvi TV to implement remedial action, including staff training and advising its guests not to divert from the topic of discussion, said Phiri.
“The Independent Broadcasting Authority’s threat to revoke Muvi TV’s license amounts to censorship of a private broadcaster ahead of the crucial August 12 elections,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “The regulator should encourage editorial independence and diversity of views rather than threatening to revoke the licenses of privately owned outlets like Muvi TV.”
The May 28 decision followed IBA’s May 16 summons of Muvi TV managers to respond to the IBA’s allegations of professional misconduct, which the outlet denied, over its May 15 televised interview with Chilufya Tayali, the leader of the opposition Economic and Equity Party who accused some government officials of wrongdoing, according to Phiri and media reports.
Phiri said the IBA alleged misconduct because the station did not offer right of reply to the officials about whom Tayali made claims.
Prior to the summons, the IBA on April 30 had rebuked the broadcaster for “unethical conduct” and “failure to exercise good judgment” in a statement reviewed by CPJ, after it aired a sponsored program that day by the Poor People’s Party featuring an interview with its leader Alex Mulyokela, according to Phiri and a local media report.
CPJ emailed the IBA for comment but did not receive a response.
The IBA previously suspended Muvi TV’s broadcast license on August 22, 2016, claiming that it was guilty of professional misconduct and posed a risk to national peace and stability before and after that year’s general election, as CPJ documented at the time. The license was reinstated on September 16, 2016, according to local news website the Lusaka Times.
In 2020, the IBA cancelled the broadcasting license of another popular independent broadcaster Prime TV “in the interest of public safety, security, peace, welfare or good order,” as CPJ documented at the time.