Monday, September 22, 2008
By Chibaula Silwamba and Inonge Noyoo
Monday September 22, 2008 [04:00]
LUSAKA’s Radio Q-FM managing director Asan Nyama has declared that the station will not be intimidated by information and broadcasting services permanent secretary Emmanuel Nyirenda. And Nyama announced that the radio station will resume its phone-in Presidential By-election 2008 Talk Show programme at 18:30 hours this evening.
Reacting to Nyirenda's directive to Q-FM to buy equipment to screen telephone calls before they are broadcast during its phone-in programmes, Nyama hoped Nyirenda would allow the private radio station to contribute to Zambia's young democracy by allowing it to do its work without interference.
"This is not the first time that Mr Nyirenda has tried to gag us. During the 2006 presidential and parliamentary elections, we were visited by police for using our outside broadcast unit. Radio Q-FM like all media organisations is a partner and stakeholder in this political process although we are non-partisan," explained Nyama in a media statement issued in Lusaka yesterday. "We shall not be intimidated by permanent secretary Nyirenda as we believe we are allowing freedom of expression. Our presenters are trained to fade away a caller who starts attacking others who are not on the show to defend themselves."
He noted that since Q-FM started using its state-of-the-art outside broadcast unit, Nyirenda has been very uncomfortable with the radio station.
"But we can assure him that we are neutral in all our broadcasts and cover all stakeholders equitably. We believe the statement issued by Mr Nyirenda was targeted at us as he has been very personal with most of our issues relating to the station's coverage area and use of the outside broadcast platform," Nyama observed.
He said after extensive consultations with the technical department, it was concluded that there was no special equipment that radio or television stations could use to screen what a caller would say.
"Therefore, Radio Q-FM will on Monday September 22, 2008 at 18:30 hours resume its Presidential By-election 2008 Talk Show that was suspended last Friday September 19, 2008," he stated.
He assured Nyirenda that Q-FM would conduct the programme with impartiality, professionalism and in unbiased manner.
Nyama stated that Q-FM was amazed that whilst the world had advanced in use of broadcast technology, Nyirenda was antagonistic with such modern technological trends in Zambia.
"We wonder why it should take days to learn what is happening in rural Zambia relating to development especially when our own president travels there but when US President George Bush speaks in Washington the whole world listens within split of seconds," observed Nyama. "We have acquired modern equipment which can cover all developmental activities in far flung areas like Kaputa, Shang'ombo, Chipata and Kasempa in real time as events happen."
And regular callers to the suspended QFM live phone-in programme expressed displeasure with Nyirenda's directive to use special technology to screen calls before they are broadcast.
The callers, who stormed The Post offices yesterday, said the move to suspend the programme was retrogressive and aimed at muzzling the press.
Imbuwa Imbuwa said Nyirenda had clearly demonstrated that he was not adding value to the advancement of freedom of expression in the country.
"We call these radio stations using our money and there is no way a PS should suggest what we should be saying.
We are a population of 13 million plus and we must not be dictated to as what we should say. It is us to tell these people what we want and not the other way round," Imbuwa said. "The next thing we will hear is that we should stop writing letters to the editor. This is very annoying and he Nyirenda should resign, let him quit."
Another caller Konoso said it was sad that under the leadership of Vice-President Rupiah Banda, dictatorial trends were slowly emerging.
"It's very strange because our late president Levy Mwanawasa was usually attacked through phone-in programmes but never banned them.
Is it a mere coincidence that when Rupiah Banda who is coming from the dictatorial era of the UNIP days where dictatorship was practiced is Acting President and such statements are coming out? If this is the case, then what more if he becomes president?" he asked.
Konoso said he could foresee a situation where the private media would be totally muzzled.
"This is why I am opposed to the regulation of the media because it will bring infringement. This nonsense should not be allowed because the media can regulate itself, they are already rules in place," he said.
Another caller, Chanda Fambo, said in this day and age, broadcasting should be interactive.
"We were condemning Robert Mugabe that he is a dictator, this is how dictatorship starts. It starts by muzzling the press. There is no greater freedom than the freedom of expression," he said.
Fambo said Nyirenda should be concerned with providing more platforms for people to express themselves because that was the only way people's concerns would be noted.
McDavid Sianjunza, who said screening calls infringed on people's rights, wondered how the government would listen to people's concerns when they were not allowed to express themselves especially in an election period.
"We know that Mulongoti is Rupiah Banda's campaign manager. Should we take it that he is the one behind the directive?" asked Sianjunza.