Friday, April 20, 2012

MISA-Namibia criticizes attempts to turn public media into party megaphones

Namibia Communiqué
19 April 2012

 MISA Namibia has called upon members of the public, including political office bearers, to embrace and promote a free and independent media but also to support the transformation of the state-controlled broadcaster, Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) into a Public Service Broadcaster (PSB).

A public service broadcaster, as commonly understood, is fully independent in all editorial and operational matters and free from any possible interference from external interests, especially political.

It has been reported that state-owned media houses, NBC and New Era newspaper, were severely criticized by several Members of Parliament (MPs) on Friday, April 13, 2012 for alleged ?pathetic? and selective coverage of public figures and public events. This was said during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT).

Joël Kaapanda, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology has requested N$305million (about US$39million) for MICT, to be used for five programmes, which include subsidies to the three media houses, NBC, Nampa and New Era.

Parliamentarians from the ruling party, Swapo, are reported to have expressed their annoyance with state-controlled media houses saying, ?Journalists are biased in their reporting, they choose who to introduce at events and leave other MPs unintroduced. We can even decide not to approve this budget. NBC together with all government-funded newspapers should take note.?

?New Era covers negative aspects of government. Why, if both are government funded, why the discrepancy??  an MP queried. ?All journalists must be fired!? stated another MP emphatically.

?New Era and NBC are not advancing and protecting government as they were established to. They must understand we have the power not to support this vote because they always stab us in the back, they must not force Swapo to have a congress and change NBC to a ?Voice of the Nation?,? another MP charged.

MISA-Namibia encourages the public, including political officials, to work together with the media industry in Namibia, for the greater good of the country. Clearly the mandates of state-subsidized media houses state that they have a duty to serve ALL Namibians with a level of transparency, accuracy and responsibility in order to enhance the democratic growth and development of Namibia.

The New Era Publication Corporation Act, 1992 (No. 1 of 1992) and the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation Act, 1991 (no. 9 of 1991) make it clear that these media have a duty not to be subservient to any political interests. Rather, it is the politicians who have the duty to ensure that funding continues to be channeled to both New Era and NBC.

In the same breath, state media have an obligation to uphold the provisions of Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the African Charter On Human and Peoples Rights and Principle XI of the Declaration on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

MISA-Namibia agrees with Principle XII of the Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa that states: ?No one should be found liable for true statements, opinions, or statements regarding public figures which is reasonable to make in the circumstances. Public figures shall be required to tolerate a greater degree of criticism. Sanctions should not be so severe as to inhibit the right of expression, including by others.?

There has to be a solid recognition that subsidies received by state-funded entities are resourced by taxpayers and such entities have an even greater duty to disseminate transparent, fair, balanced and accurate information to the public regardless of political affiliation.

For more information, please contact:
Ngamane Karuaihe-Upi, MISA-Namibia

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