Jolie and Pitt Visit – Something is Wrong Here

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro I have been tempted to enter the altercation between the local human rights orga-nisation and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting that has of late been finding a niche in the Namibian media. It centres on our guests of honour of Hollywood fame, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Not so much to welcome them to Namibia, welcome they are. But because I think the stars’ “right to privacy” submission and the consequent hunting of the paparazzi have been much ado about nothing. I don’t think the real issue is and should be their privacy. Their privacy, as is their security in Namibia is guaranteed. Granting axiomatically that the couple is a public item, the real issue and the ball most seen to be strangely missing, including the custodians of media freedoms, are the limits to the privacy of our honoured and revered and overly protected guests. Because these limits also define the freedom of the media to honour their responsibility of coverage linked to the “right to know” of the Namibian population. As much as our Erongo governor, and all others, in their official capacities were duty bound to make the couple feel at home and to assure them of their safety, they seemed to miss the others who are also duty bound. One may give the Erongo governor the benefit that he simply did what he had to do. However, the same cannot be said of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR). “There is a worldwide renewed emphasis on the need for the free flow of information at national, regional and international level to promote development. The move is towards the ‘right to know’ as opposed to the previously accepted ‘need to know’ approach,” reads an excerpt from Chapter 38 on Information and Communication Technology in Namibia’s Second National Development Plan (NDP2). The prime sponsor of this excerpt is none other than the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. One of the central roles of the ministry is to facilitate the free flow of information and this premises creating the necessary conditions where the media, as the conveyor belt of such information, can fulfil its function unfettered. However, I discern a disturbing imbalance between the “privacy” of our guests and the freedom of the media. A foremost issue in the sector of information and communication technology between the industrialised half and their industrialising counterparts, is the digital divide. In this, the transfer of information and communication technology from the industrialised to those questing for industrialisation is a top priority, at least if public posturing is anything to go by. One of the champions in this quest is none other than the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. But what use is the transfer of technology in the absence of the levelling of the playing fields in terms of content? Content may in the case in question be the access to our honoured guests. One cannot help but conclude that the New International Information and Communication Order has as yet to assume its proper meaning more than three decades or so after its conceptualisation and embrace by the international community. If the Namibian media have to rely on copy and pictures from media houses abroad for an event that is unfolding right in their backyard, then something is drastically wrong. Not that I have much against the foreign media legion. Far from it. It just does not make sense and neither is it fair to the local media. Interestingly the local media itself seem mum on the issue. It is not so much whether our guests matter to the local readership or audience but is a matter of principle. As much as the country has a duty to our foreign guests of whatever hue and status, the country also has obligations towards its citizens. In this regard, the Namibian media has an obligation towards its readership and audience as far as the visit of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is concerned. This is an obligation it can fulfil without turning to the foreign media legion. The couple’s visit to Namibia in this instance is understandable. The need of the media and the host population must equally be understood because it cannot be anything but best wishes for the couple. Perhaps Jolie and Pitt, the Namibian authority and indeed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting can learn a thing or two from the recent visit of two cast members of the popular Mexican soapy, “When You Are Mine”, Anette Michel (Barbra) and Sylvia Navarro (Paloma). They are no less stars but the public had moments to share with them. Equally they had their private moments. It was a win-win situation. The bond between them and the country has been cemented to reverberate beyond Namibian borders.