Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) has lamented opacity in the allocation of TV and radio licenses by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA).
In a statement issued on Wednesday, TI-Z Executive Director, Maurice Nyambe, expressed grave concerns about the lack of transparency in the award of TV and radio licenses by the IBA.
The organization cited numerous irregularities in the licensing process, including delayed and potential political interference, which could undermine public trust in media regulation in Zambia.
“We have observed unjustified delays, instances of favoritism, a lack of transparency, and even potential political interference in the licensing process, all of which have the potential to erode public trust in the independence and fairness of media regulation in Zambia.
“The most recent cause for concern is the alteration of the release date for the names of successful applicants for TV and radio licenses. Applicants who have been eagerly awaiting the results have had their hopes dashed as the release date has been repeatedly postponed,” Nyambe said.
He added that the sudden change in the timeline, coupled with alterations to the selection procedure, had raised suspicions of favoritism and a lack of transparency.
While noting that on October 20, 2023, IBA responded to a query by TI-Z to clarify the delay of publication of successful TV and Radio licensing applications by claiming that results of both successful and unsuccessful applicants had already been notified of their applications’ results, the organization said:
“Contrary to this response, TI-Z has had several whistleblowers come forward about not being informed of the status of their applications.”
Furthermore, TI-Z claimed that politically-affiliated applicants reportedly received offer letters and started construction of studios ahead of other non-politically-affiliated applicants, deepening suspicions of favouritism, corruption, and a lack of transparency.
TI-Z referenced relevant sections of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act and the Independent Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act, which outlined the timeframe for granting or rejecting applications and providing reasons for rejections.
TI-Z has, therefore, called on IBA to release the results of successful license applicants immediately and provide an explanation for the delays.
The organization emphasized the need for transparency and independence in the media licensing process.
TI-Z also expressed deep concerns about potential political interference, citing an incident involving a civic leader from the office of a Member of Parliament.
Nyambe alleged that a civic leader questioned an applicant’s motive for applying for a broadcasting license in their constituency, raising questions about external influence on the licensing process.
The statement highlighted that IBA should not be subject to the dictates of any other person or authority, emphasizing its independence.
TI-Z called for a thorough and impartial investigation into these concerns and urged the IBA to re-establish its credibility by ensuring a transparent, fair, and politically independent media licensing process.
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