Questions Hang Over Media Awards

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By Francis Tsawayo WINDHOEK The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) prize-giving event for excellence in journalism may be out of the way but before the dust has settled, New Era has received calls from some members of the public who are questioning the transparency of the whole process. With current board members serving the last week of a two-year tenure and a post-mortem imminent, the issue of non-participation by some media houses has raised eyebrows. With the majority of the panel of judges being white, the adjudication process of the awards has raised concern and its credibility is being questioned. One member of the public who did not want to be identified asked why certain categories were cancelled, as well as the criteria used to choose winners. The competence of what they described as “lecturer judges” to preside over what is being seen as a dynamic industry has also come under the spotlight. They also feel that the panel of almost all-white judges does not reflect the population composition of an independent Namibian nation just emerging from apartheid. The issue of non-participation by public media institutes has been pending and should have been addressed as a matter of priority, said one woman. Some of the people New Era spoke to feel the awards perpetuate divisions. Previously, MISA failed to publish the winning articles and some journalists, particularly in the public media, feel the exercise is biased towards white-owned media. Commenting on the issue of non-participation on the eve of the event, Chairperson of MISA Namibia Robin Tyson said invitations had been sent to all media organisations from the private and public sector. His organisation made the criteria and entry forms available on their website. “There should be no reason for any institution to feel left out,” he added. On the question of the judges, Ferdinand Tjombe, the organiser of the event, said: “Eve Black, a veteran broadcaster and a former Director General of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation Nahum Gorelick”, had the responsibility to handle the judging for the electronic media. “Emily Brown and Willie Olivier are people who have been part of the awards since they began and these people were selected for their experience as well as their expertise. It is a challenge to get people with qualities to judge an event which is unique, in the sense that the judges have to be trilingual and be able to read the material in German, English and Afrikaans,” said Tjombe. Director of MISA Namibia Matthew Haikali claimed he was not aware of the complaints and his organisation has not received any complaints of that nature. The post-mortem for the awards will focus on preparations, categories and all stakeholders would be invited to assess and make the necessary adjustments. Haikali said from the previous MISA board, only Christof Maletsky, the Treasurer, is standing for re-election. The outgoing board leaves office this week.