Editorial: Sata’s flip flops on Media National coverage licensing

We have been watching the events unfolding in the country with a deep sense of consternation.

President Sata

President Sata

The rate at which government job appointments and policy decisions are changing is nothing short of magical, spontaneous and abrupt.

These inconsistencies also include promises made during the campaigns which have abruptly been changed with little or no clear explanation.

The Patriotic Front government seems to have adopted a flip flop policy where an appointment or decision is made today the following day or hours later it is reversed.

The President is also renowned for saying or embracing someone or something only to change later.

At a recent Cabinet meeting at State House President Sata directed Permanent Secretary Emmanuel Mwamba to revoke nationwide licenses issued to privately owned commercial radio stations.

President Sata singled out Radio Phoenix which he said is keenly used by the opposition and especially that it has sold some of its shareholding to a foreign entity. Privately owned commercial radio stations were recently given the leeway to broadcast countrywide.

He said government can only issue licenses to broadcast nationwide to missionary stations.

President Michael Sata expressed concern over the impact that such issuance of national coverage licenses to private owned commercial radio stations will have on the country’s integrity.

Speaking shortly before chairing a cabinet meeting at State House this morning, President Sata said the issuance of nationwide licenses to Radio Qfm and Radio Phoenix by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) may have been done without proper consultation.

The Head of State explained that the reason the national broadcasting license has been left only to ZNBC alone has been to protect the integrity of the state from possible careless statements that may come from political leaders with ill intentions.

You come, you are Mr Emmanuel Mwamba, you give coverage to all of them so that Mr HH can now go and stand on Radio Phoenix. Mr Mwamba is there smiling. Have you seen? We are sitting here, the people who are killing our own people, there are there. The young people you bring. Can you tell me the justification,” the charged Sata said.

This contradicts what Mr. Sata said about the issuance of nationwide licenses whilst campaigning in fact this is one of the major flip flops of the week because it confirms fears that private media is being systematically muzzled for political expedience. The reasons advanced by the president for this action are a far cry from the reality on the ground.

While in opposition Mr. Sata promised that he was going to liberalize the airwaves by issuing national licenses to private Radio and Television stations. He used to say that the Media should be limited with their inability to have equipment and not regulations.

“Why should BBC (British Broadcasting Corperation) be allowed to broadcast here (Zambia) and you are not allowed to reach out to the whole country? When I come in, all these restrictive laws will go,” Sata said.

But today after Zambians entrusted Mr. Sata with power he wanted, the story has changed the private Media has become a threat to the country’s integrity. What is wrong with Mr. Sata? Why do politicians never want to learn?

Mr. Sata today thinks since he is the President of Zambia then the private Media is of no relevance to him. What kind of thinking is this? The man cannot learn from his predecessors who used to think the same way.

Take Rupiah Banda the immediate past President of Zambia, the man today can only get fair coverage from the same private Media he did not want to grow and get national coverage. Rupiah is not running for political office but needs a media to air his views on various national issues.

The MMD in opposition today is “crying” that they are not getting fair coverage from the supposed Public Media which it accuses of being pro-Patriotic Front. The private Media MMD didn’t want is its savoir today.

We could understand MMD but not Mr. Sata with all his experience in both government and opposition. But it seems the man has been blinded by power and can only see one side of the coin. All he sees is power at his disposal but for how long will he continue to enjoy this power? Is ZNBC today he is saying should have the monopoly to broadcast to the whole country be there for him all the time?

Mr. Sata and his PF must remember that the private Media they want killed or restricted today after it assisted them to get to power would be of help to them one day. You cannot destroy the bridge after crossing the river, come on Mr. Sata.

It therefore follows that there is a dire lack of sincerity and political will on the part of the president to put into place measures guaranteeing unfettered access to nationwide broadcast licenses. These events and many others have created a lack of confidence in the way government is being run not only by private media bodies but also the nation at large.

We make haste to remind Mr. Sata to investigate further why the licenses were issued and quickly rescind his decision in the interest of upholding media freedom in a democratic dispensation. Failure to act in the affirmative will clearly suggest Zambia has again resigned itself to autocratic tendencies and the nation will have to unwillingly succumb to rule by decree.

In this time and age an un-listening leadership is a recipe for retrogression leading up to dictatorship. President Sata the people have spoken, listen! Do the right thing when you still have the opportunity to do so. We are sure that given the chance the MMD would tackle this issue different. Power is never permanent!