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Authorities ban live call-in shows on radio station in Mongu

(MISA/IFEX) - The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services (MIBS) has banned Radio Lyambai in Mongu from broadcasting call-in programmes.

In a letter sent to the station dated 30 November 2007, Juliana Mwila, the ministry's director of press and planning, said the programmes had to stop while the station was under investigation. According to Mwila, the station was under investigation for allegedly having failed to handle calls professionally, which resulted in the station "becoming a platform for confrontation, controversies and a channel of insults and misinformation."

Mwila called on the station to disseminate information in a balanced manner and to behave ethically.

Tabb Lubinda, the station manager, appealed to Mwila for an open dialogue with the station. "We request to talk to you and exculpate ourselves before you take action," he said.

Henry Kabwe, chairperson of MISA-Zambia, urged the MIBS to rescind the decision to ban live call-in programmes, calling the decision "authoritarian, an assault on media freedom and freedom of expression, and contrary to democratic norms."

"The effect of the ban is to prevent Radio Lyambai listeners from expressing their views on critical social, economic and developmental issues in Western Province. It is, therefore, an unforgivable attack on the Zambian Constitution's guarantee of freedom of expression," Kabwe said.

Kabwe also said the action was illegal, and called on the MIBS to establish the proposed Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA).

"We believe that a properly constituted IBA would be well placed to regulate the broadcasting industry professionally, impartially and free from accusations of political influence. However, as long as the ministry remains the regulator, there will be suspicion of bias and heavy-handedness in the way decisions affecting the broadcasting sector are made," he said.

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