Minister Laments Media Fragmentation

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Minister of Information and Broadcasting Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has again expressed concern over a lack of unity among local media practitioners and institutions. Despite the Namibian Constitution making provisions for Freedom of the Press, 16 years after the country’s independence, the media sector has failed to establish a regulatory body that would serve as a platform for attending to grievances by practitioners themselves and the public. Ndaitwah, who was speaking at the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, indicated that the divisions have prevented the sector from adopting a uniform Code of Ethics. “Namibia is one country that to date does not have a media council. As long as there is this division, there is no way we will effectively work and when you are hurting the public, they have nowhere to go,” she lamented. She warned that as long as the media continue to operate in a fragmented state there is a high risk of losing direction in its nation-building role. Celebrated under the theme “Media and Poverty Eradication” World Press Freedom Day 2006 is dedicated to the consideration of how protecting and furthering the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and press freedom can assist in assuring another human right of living free from poverty. According to the minister, the media should be regarded as the fourth arm of the State after the executive, legislative and the judiciary. This is so as the media have the capacity to make a meaningful contribution to the eradication of poverty. The media can serve as a vehicle for sharing information in order to facilitate good governance, and generate opportunities to gain access to essential services. The country’s constitution gives freedom to media practitioners to go anywhere in the country to collect and disseminate information, a tool that could be used to allow people to effectively work towards poverty eradication. Ndaitwah further expressed dismay at some practitioners indicating that they allow themselves to be used as tools to destroy nation- building, and insulting national leaders. This tendency, she added, is unacceptable and is tantamount to sabotaging the gains of the country’s independence. “It is not allowed to carry articles creating hate and distrust in the country. Already, the country comes from a background of hate. If we have to work together to eradicate poverty, let us not promote hate and insinuations, it is not the media’s mission,” she stated. Media houses in the country have also been condemned for allegedly concentrating more on political issues and paying little attention to economic and business related issues despite having the potential to improve the economy and lives of the masses. Ndaitwah urged the Government and the business sector to support community media that can also play an indispensable role in fighting poverty.