- The Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) has suspended its acting director of programmes and another employee over the broadcast of "Unshackled", an African film featuring a man addicted to masturbation. The suspension came even after the director had apologised for his lack of "decency and taste".
According to the Windhoek-based Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), ZNBC programme director Ben Kangwa has been suspended for one month, and another employee, Ignatius Sibetta, has been suspended after the broadcast of "Unshackled". The movie was broadcast by ZNBC on 3 August.
On 12 August, ZNBC Acting Director General Joseph Salasini informed independent 'The Post' newspaper of the suspensions. He said that although Mr Kangwa did not air the film, as acting director of programmes he was responsible for all programmes. Mr Salasini said key issues were raised on programming that had forced management to evaluate the system.
- We deeply regret the lapse which led to the transmission of that film, MISA quoted Mr Salasini as saying. "That's not what ZNBC does. It has [taken away from us] substantial value, resources and respect," he added.
The decision to suspend Mr Kangwa comes barely a week after he apologised on behalf of ZNBC for the film. In his apology, Mr Kangwa said the programme was "unscheduled" and admittedly failed to live up to the "high standards of decency and taste" the national broadcaster had set for itself.
- This, however, was not intentional but an unfortunate incidence arising from failure by a section of staff to abide by broadcast procedures, he said in a 5 August statement.
After it was aired, the programme was criticised and condemned by the government and members of the public. Zambia, as other countries of the region, holds on to strictly conservative values regarding the openness of sexuality. Masturbation remains a taboo in public.
Aubrey Chindefu, a Lusaka resident, described the film's broadcast as "pathetic and immoral on the part of this national television [station,] to exhibit such immaturity of judgment and professional ethics to the public."
Information and Broadcasting Services Minister and chief Zambian government spokesperson Mutale Nalumango also condemned the screening of the film. "That was a terrible incident and such films should not show their ugly heads on screen again."
- It was a very, very unfortunate action, Mr Nalumango was quoted by MISA as saying. "That was a lapse on the part of ZNBC and on behalf of the corporation and the ministry, I apologise for what happened. I asked for a report and, as I speak, I have it on my table. We can't allow that to happen," added Mr Nalumango.
The Minister was responding to a caller on ZNBC's Radio 2 early morning programme "Government Forum" who complained about the film.
In addition to showing "indecent" scenes, "Unshackled" portrayed a religious leader about to prescribe a religious solution. The broadcast was stopped after nearly 10 minutes on air.
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