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Zambia's media institute warns govt

Zambia's media institute warns govt.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa's (MISA) Zambia chapter has warned the Southern African country's government against what it described as "suffocating the country's broadcasting sector".

Zambia's broadcasting sector is under pressure after the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Chishimba Kambwili threatened to close private station Radio Phoenix and pull a programme being aired on University of Zambia (UNZA) radio.

MISA has since issued a statement warning the government against revoking the operating licence of Radio Phoenix.

MISA Zambia chairperson Ellen Mwale said it was saddening that it was the same radio station whose nationwide broadcasting licence was withdrawn by authorities on the grounds that "it would allow opposition leaders to continue featuring on its programmes to attack government."

Mwale said threats of withdrawal of licence for Radio Phoenix qualify as violation of media freedom as it is clear that the radio station is being targeted with special influence over the process by the minister himself.

She said MISA notes with concern the growing trend of threats from Kambwili against various media outlets and the media fraternity as a whole in Zambia "We believe it is the duty of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to act with utmost independence and professional autonomy to review any such situation without any undue influence from the powers such as minister of Information and Broadcasting Services."

She added, "We wish to warn Kambwili, who is also chief government spokesman, to desist from terrorising the media as his behaviour is painting a bad picture of President Edgar Lungu's leadership."

Mwale said MISA wishes to reiterate "that the media in Zambia does not need a terrorist for a minister, but rather a person that understands and appreciates the role that the media plays".

Kambwili's threat to close the radio Phoenix follows the recent hosting of Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) for a phone-in programme called Let the People Talk.

During the programme, Hichilema attacked the government's economic policy inconsistencies and failure to address load shedding.

UNZA radio, a students' radio station is also being targeted for running a live phone-in programme called Lusaka Star which features political party leaders and civil society organisations.

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