Hakainde Hichilema Uplifts Ban of Prime TV

The newly elected president of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema has uplifted the ban of Zambia’s Television station, Prime TV.

Hichilema took to social media to reveal that he has granted the station permission to operate.

“Press freedom will not be lip service but rather practical steps to actualisinh it. Welcome back Prime TV, continue your good work in the new dispensation,” posted Hakainde Hichilema.

On April 9 , 2020, the Independent Broadcasting Authority, Zambia’s broadcasting regulator, cancelled Prime TV’s license “in the interest of public safety, security, peace, welfare or good order.

The statement said that Prime TV must surrender its license and cease broadcasting immediately.

It did not specify any broadcasts or actions by the station’s employees that prompted the decision.

On the same day, police arrived at the outlet’s office in Lusaka, the capital, and forced staffers to leave the building and barred them from returning, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who said that employees had not been able to return as of today.

Prime TV, a popular television station known for its critical coverage of the government, had recently been covering the COVID-19 pandemic, according to multiple sources.

In 2019, authorities suspended Prime TV’s license for 30 days for alleged unprofessionalism in response to a complaint lodged by the Patriotic Front, as CPJ documented at the time.

The broadcaster’s suspension followed a month of heightened tensions between the government and Prime TV.

On March 13, Prime TV owner Gerald Shawa, in his capacity as chairman of the Zambia Independent Media Association, a local trade group, told officials that independent outlets were not prepared to air the government’s coronavirus-awareness campaign for free, because the government owed them money for airing previous advertisements and, unlike the public broadcaster, they were not subsidized by the state.

On March 17 , Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya accused Prime TV of being “unpatriotic” and banned government officials from conducting any business with it, including appearing on its broadcasts, and also barred the network’s journalists from attending official events.