Zambia closure of media houses ′illegal′ | Africa | DW | 24.08.2016
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Zambia closure of media houses 'illegal'

Zambia suspended the licenses this week of one of the country's main television stations and two radio stations. Analyst MacDonald Chipenzi thinks this move was aimed at stifling media freedom.

DW: What can you tell us about the state of freedom of speech in Zambia?

MacDonald Chipenzi: We are sliding towards a very dangerous cliff where media freedom and freedom of speech is concerned. The government is using a systematic approach on any media house that is giving space to people with divergent views or the opposition. Not even in the one-party state did there exist such an approach of media freedom.

Earlier this week, three media stations were closed citing unprofessional conduct. What signal is the government trying to send with this kind of closure?

The closure itself is illegal. The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) is also illegally performing its duties. If this was an issue of professional misconduct, then the electoral commission of Zambia should have presented a complaint to the IBA. But the IBA is not able to give us an explanation of who complained.

So what can you tell us about the particular stations that were shut down?

The shutdown of Muvi TV [a partner station with Deutsche Welle] came barely 24 hours after they hosted me to explain how the referendum failed. I was one of the activists who campaigned against the referendum [to expand Zambia's Bill of Rights]. The following morning, Muvi TV was served with a letter of suspension saying that that was misconduct.

Muvi TV has been providing opposition parties a lot of space to air their programs and policies to the public. They are trying to send a chilling hand to all the radio and TV stations that are providing space to these people.

Has your organization ever received complaints of harassment from media practitioners?

Yes. This media harassment started a long time ago. Media houses began to be harassed my state machinery in 2011. Whenever a media house would publish something that was strong and negative, they would be called and told that their radio station could be closed.

At one point, two radio stations were denied licenses to broadcast nation-wide. This is not the first time that such has happened but the media itself has not been good at defending itself against such actions.

MacDonald Chipenzi is the executive director of the Zambia Foundation for Democratic Process