PRIME Television has offered to play the full footage on the Sesheke shooting if the PF requested it officially.
And the station has suspected political interference in IBA’s request for editorial policy and footage.
Responding to Patriotic Front (PF) secretary general Davies Mwila’s complaint that the station was biased against the ruling party in the Sesheke by-election, managing director Gerald Shawa said the station had always practiced fair coverage.
In a letter dated February 16, Shawa reminded Mwila that when he banned Prime Television journalists from covering the PF, it caused more misunderstandings than solutions.
Shawa further thanked Mwila for engaging the station formally as opposed to banning its reporters from covering the PF.
“We wish to appreciate you for the initiative of formerly engaging us on the above captioned matter and we hope this gesture will also resolve a number of misunderstandings surrounding your political party and our institution. Also note that the Sesheke shooting was not played as a documentary and if you would want us to play full footage on the whole shooting incidence as a documentary for the nation to fully appreciate the coverage, which we believe would not go well for the nation for security reason, we are ready to do that, only at your request sir,” Shawa stated.
“We further wish to remind you that Prime Television remains committed to working with all stakeholders like yourself and if you had initially taken this formal route, the situation would not have been perceived as it is in that our reporters were going to freely cover your political party. As a broadcast institution, we remain committed to balanced and ethical reporting. We also await your advice whether your ban of Prime TV from covering PF events still stands so that we may extend our coverage to your party to come and give their side of the story on what may not have been made known by field journalists who had to sneak their way through to cover your party for fear of being attacked.”
Shawa stated that despite Mwila banning Prime Televison journalists from covering PF, the station still found subtle ways of covering the ruling party.
“We wish to bring to your attention your press briefing where you publicly barred Prime Television from covering all your political party [functions] and chased our journalists publicly on 26th January 2019. You further went on various forums intimating that you had no regret over your actions and did not need Prime TV,” he stated.
“Note that even if you announced to the public that Prime TV should never cover your party, Prime TV, being a professional body still continue to cover your political party to the level of even playing your advertorials for Sesheke by-election. The Sesheke PF campaign manager was covered on several occasions which coverage footage we are in receipt. You may also wish to know that covering your party during the campaigns was by our serious subtle effort as you had publicly banned Prime TV from covering your party which comment endangered all our reporters. We hope and pray that this formal way of communicating will help us resolve the misunderstanding surrounding the coverage of Sesheke by elections.”
He stated that all the material aired that day was backed by footage.
Shawa stated that during the same by-election campaigns, PF supporters grabbed a laptop computer from a Prime Television journalist.
“Note that the caption you have referred to as ‘Armed state police and PF cadres chase of HH in thick forest took 8hrs as IG plans to institute inquiry’, are all backed by footage and pictures showing state police and PF cadres, together with the opposition leader and his officials being pursued, and Prime TV is not the only media which reported a similar event. The idea of HH and many hours of being pursued are based on the official position of the UPND officials who are victims in the footage and the footage of recovered live ammunitions and cartridges of live ammunitions which again have been reported by other media houses too,” stated Shawa.
“Note that while you observed that the news bulletin gave prominence to the views of the United Party for National Development, our Prime TV reporter escaped lynching by PF cadres who got away with his laptop and continued to pursue him in a quest to grab the camera where the footage was believed to have been. Your reference to the Rwandan genocide cannot be substantiated in our report as there was nothing in the report associated with ethnic conflicts that characterised the Rwandan genocide and we feel sad that you went as far as what was not covered in the news. You have also alleged the use of computer-generated graphics in our report footage, an allegation which is far from the truth as other mainstream media houses and online media carried the same pictures and footage. Should you further seek some raw footage, we shall avail you a comprehensive one.”
And responding to the Independent Broadcasting Authority’s demands, Shawa stated that the timing was politically motivated.
“It is our considered view that while the Authority is mandated by the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act hereinafter referred to as IBA Act 2010 and 2017 to Post-Monitor broadcast institutions, the timing is rather perceived [to be] highly politically motivated for the following reasons: 1. That the request comes barely after Public attacks, serious allegations of blacklist and public chase of our journalists by Patriotic Front (PF) secretary general Davies Mwila on 26th January 2019 , who also barred Prime Television from covering all PF functions, which decision has exposed our Journalist[s] to serious political attacks, the recent being a brutal attack on our reporter Lloyd Kapusa in Sesheke 8th February 2019 where Patriotic Front (PF) cadres got away with his laptop and only escaped with a camera after running for his life, an attack on our Mazabuka based reporter Kazela Habwanda on 5th February 2019 by PF cadres and another attack on our court reporter Wells Chifunda on 14th February 2019,” he stated.
“2. That our Minister of Information and Broadcasting Dora Siliya on 13th February 2019 at a briefing raised sensational reporting allegations of the Sesheke violence against Prime TV which allegations have been followed by your request; 3. The PF Deputy Media Director Antonio Mwanza was quoted by some online blog hereinafter referred to as ‘TP News’ on 13th February 2019 as saying “Prime Television must be closed… the IBA has already been directed to revoke the license….” 4. That, Minister of Lands and Natural Hon Jean Kapata, also senior Patriotic Front party official is also on record of having threatened to cause an attack on Prime TV when she was quoted as saying “to Prime TV, we are not warning you but I am telling that if you continue with type of reports, disparaging government day-in-day-out, these women that you are seeing here shall come and close your studio.”
Shawa stated that he observed with grief that the political attacks by Mwila, Kapata and Mwanza all pointed to an obvious position.
“The IBA request, though legally correct and binding, is ill-timed as it has been dented by the sequence of political events being advanced by Mr Mwila who announced publicly that he was going to engage the IBA over his grievances. Mr Mwanza also reiterated similar sentiments when he was quoted by ‘TP News’ as saying ‘IBA has already been instructed to revoke the license’, the statements that clearly suggest political directives to IBA to engage with Prime TV as opposed to routine Post-monitoring being referred to in your letter,” stated Shawa.
“We have since received a complaint letter from Mr Mwila, thus we do not know whether the IBA request will put into consideration the complaints procedure knowing that Mr Mwila is on record of saying he would engage the IBA over Prime TV, and the IBA request seems to work in retrospect to the process already commenced by Mr Mwila. We do not know whether the IBA is now acting on Mr Mwila and Mr Mwanza’s instruction or that we have to follow the IBA complaints procedure for Mr Mwila to exhaust his procedure since he publicly announced his plan to engage the IBA and the IBA has since made a request based around the same material period being referred to by the IBA letter.
We would also want to seek clarification as to whether the decision by the IBA will not jeopardise the process already commenced by Mr Mwila or compromise themselves in that they seem to be now acting on political directives and political statements and not in accordance with section 38 of the IBA principal Act, in that their request came barely after public announcements are made referring to the IBA to consider acting. Given Mr Mwila and Mr Mwanza’s position, it is clear that the IBA request is politically motivated and politically timed even though the IBA Act provides for such a request. While we respect the law that establishes the IBA, we are aggrieved that any further decision that IBA will have to take will be politically induced.”