New Era Not ‘Loss-making’

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The Editor The Namibian Dear Ms Lister I am writing to respond to an apparent misrepresentation of facts in your column, the Political Perspective of Friday, 20 January 2006. I trust that you would be kind enough to publish my letter so that your readers could get my side of the matter. I believe that you wrote on the subject with good intention and that is, I guess, to critically and constructively express your views on issues of public and national interest. Unfortunately, and regrettably, you chose to ignore one of the most important journalistic principles. As a practice, we expected you to verify the information you conveyed to your readers before stating it as facts in your Political Perspective. You wrote and I quote: “If Government simply did the task to which it is assigned, namely, to govern properly and to keep to their budgets, they’d probably be less in the public eye than they are at present. But if they will insist on setting up scores of parastatals or SOE’s even when they are plainly loss-making, then the drain on our coffers will be continual.” I have no fundamental problem with your view as reflected in the extract above. Then you continued to write and I quote again: “There is in addition, their daily newspaper, New Era, also a loss-making proposition …” This is exactly where my problem is, because it is a clear perhaps, a deliberate, misrepresentation of facts. The fact is: New Era is not a “loss-making proposition” and you are welcome to visit New Era’s Head Office to convince yourself of the facts. The Namibian is a reputable and respected national newspaper, but sweeping and unsubstantiated statements by its top principal in a weekly column, is not compatible with what I view as your established values of relative objective reporting. I must point out, however, that there are readers out there who might not necessarily share my assessment of your newspaper in this regard, but that is normal in a democracy like ours. I however, appreciate the fact that you might view New Era as a competitor, but it is important that when you oppose the paper you do so within the confines of journalistic ethics. I believe there is plenty of room for the print media to co-exist, in harmony, in this country and there is absolutely no need for the role-players in the print media to resort to mudslinging. For your information, Ms Lister, Government has reduced its subsidy to New Era since the 2001-2002 financial year. New Era now receives less than 40% of the subsidy it received from Government in the 2001-2002 financial year. This is despite the fact that its operational costs have escalated due to the fact that it has become a daily, resulting in increased printing, distribution, labour and other costs. New Era is, of course, not “swimming” in the money, but is definitely not a “loss-making proposition” as you alleged. Finally, may I use this opportunity to wish you and your entire staff a very prosperous 2006. Vilbard T Usiku Chairman New Era Board of Directors