8 February 2013

Zambia: Independent Radio Stations Threatened With Closure

Privately owned Joy FM Radio in Lusaka faces closure by the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) for not renewing its operating licence.

A memo from ZICTA has also issued notice of closure to three other radio stations and a private company in Eastern Province for allegedly failing to fulfill paperwork requirements.

The radio stations in Eastern Province are Radio Mphangwe in Atete, Radio Chikaya in Lundazi, and Radio Feel Free in Chipata.

Joy FM Radio in Lusaka is famous for broadcasting live phone in programmes where callers are not censored for their contributions. The programme has attracted the ire of President Michael Sata's government because callers have been often been vocally critical of the Patrotic Front government, complaining on air of its failure to deliver on campaign promises.

According to ZICTA, operating licenses for some of the radio stations had expired in 2010.

ZICTA has also issued a notice of closure to 67 other companies in the country, which have radio communication facilities but have not renewed them.

Some of these are former Chipata Water and Sewerage Company and C and B Farms in Mfuwe.

The radio stations have been issued with a 30 days ultimatum to renew their licenses or they will be cancelled and their frequencies assigned to radio operators.

Meanwhile, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia chapter has warned district commissioners to stop intimidating and interfering into the operations of community radio stations.

"MISA Zambia makes this call following about three complaints that show that district commissioners have been intimidating community media. This intimidation takes the form of threats of closure and threats to dissolve or indeed dissolution of the boards of such media. Among the radio stations that have faced such intimidation include Isoka Community Radio, Radio Pasme and of late Kasempa Community Radio," reads part of the statement from MISA Zambia chairperson Nalumino Nalumino.

Malumino said community media did not only exist to sing praises for the government, but was there to point out wrongs in their communities as well.

"We also wish to put it on record that we are in touch with the Inspector General of Police and will ensure that no one uses police officers to intimidate the media in any part of the country," he said.

Nalumino said district commissioners must embrace and protect the media and use it as a source of information for them to plan and deliver development that will reduce poverty levels in their areas.

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