A Lilongwe based media expert has warned that Joy Television broadcasting from Zambia will be dangerous to President Bingu Wa Mutharika and his administration than leaving the TV station to broadcast in Malawi.
His comments follow an announcement that newly elected Zambian President Micheal Sata has given a green light to Joy Television, which has close links to former President Bakili Muluzi, to operate from Zambia.
Son to the former president, Atupele, told local media that President Sata’s government has given Joy Television permission to broadcast from the Eastern Provincial headquaters of Chipata which borders Malawi.
President Sata is also quoted in the Zambia media to have welcomed the move, saying it is a great investment for Zambians which shall create employment opportunities and open up the Eastern Province of Zambia to new technologies.
Joy Television Station was closed down in 2007 by the Malawi government after broadcasting for four months and has been denied a broadcasting license since then.
Since 2007, Joy Television and the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) have been involved in a never ending legal battle over the license.
Joy Television station will now be beaming its programs via satellite from Chipata after getting clearance from the Zambian Authorities.
But commenting on the development, Jerome Magawa, said this move shall send wrong signals to the international community that there is no freedom of the press in Malawi.
“What is being demonstrated here is that Malawi is a dictatorship. It has to take the democratic Zambia to give a license to a Malawian private TV to operate from outside Malawi.”
He observed that for Joy Television to seek “refugee” in Zambia, it shows that the TV station had exhausted all the channels in Malawi and cried to a foreign country for help.
“Joy TV has been closed down for the last four years and it is a long time for anyone to endure. I pity the guys because they are now like refuges seeking media freedom in a friendly democratic country”.
He said the whole drama hinges on freedom and likened the situation to the academic freedom that Chancellor College lectures are fighting for.
“Joy Television has been fighting for their freedom to broadcast, and the government has not listened. It’s the same way the government is not listening to Chancellor College lecturers who are crying for academic freedom. Is the Malawi government waiting for President Sata to give us an academic freedom university in Chipata?”
Magawa also observed that it would also be virtually impossible to regulate Joy TV if it broadcasts its programs from outside Malawi saying, a Joy TV broadcasting from within the borders of Malawi is of less harm.
“MACRA has all the instruments in place to regulate broadcasters. It would be very easy for them to regulate Joy TV if it was broadcasting from within the borders of Malawi. But MACRA cannot regulate a satellite Joy Television broadcasting from outside Malawi. It may end up being a hostile media, while MACRA can do nothing about it.”
He said this development also means it’s the Zambians who shall gain economically from the Joy Television investment, at a time when unemployment in Malawi has reached an all time high.
And a source at MACRA has reviewed that there was no need for any delay in issuing TV licenses.
“As a secretariat, we have no problems with the Joy TV application. Actually, the Joy TV license application is one the best and they proved to us beyond any reasonable doubt that they were ready and capable to offer television broadcasting services to the nation,” said the source.
He said as a secretariat, MACRA was more than ready to issue Joy Television, a broadcasting license even today. But they cannot do it when their superiors (government politicians) are “so worried, adamant and skeptical of the TV.”
Meanwhile, Joy Television Director General Tailos Bakili has refused to shed light on the new development and when his station shall start its operations in Zambia.
Asked if Joy TV shall withdraw its court battles against MACRA and concentrate on their Zambian license, Bakili said he was not in a position to make any comments as he was at his home village in Machinga attending a funeral.
He however promised Nyasa Times that he would make a statement soon.