Zambia revokes TV station’s licence for refusing COVID-19 ads

Zambia’s broadcasting body on Thursday revoked the licence of a private TV station after it refused to air public messages about coronavirus.

Prime Television, a popular pro-opposition channel, told authorities last month that it would not air information about COVID-19 unless it was paid for government-commissioned campaign messages during elections in 2015 and 2016.

The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) cancelled its licence with “immediate effect” on Thursday, citing “the interest of public safety, security, peace and welfare”.

“The Board considers it appropriate in the circumstances to do so,” said IBA board secretary Josephine Mapoma in a statement.

Prime Television director Gerald Shawa declined to comment on the IBA’s decision.

The channel’s licence was suspended for a month last year after the ruling party accused it of “biased coverage” and “unethical reporting”.

Shawa, a former cameraman at the state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, said at the time that the suspension was issued without giving the station the right of reply.

Television has played a major role in raising awareness about coronavirus in Zambia.

Adverts remind viewers to wash their hands regularly, cough into their elbows and avoid unnecessary exposure to other people.

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