Nothing Wrong with a Media Council

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By Clemens Kashuupulwa

Namibia is a democratic society in which fundamental human rights and freedoms are respected and upheld by the government, its agencies and non-governmental organizations as well as by natural and legal persons throughout Namibia.

Fundamental human rights and freedoms are constitutional provisions under Chapter 3 of the Namibian Constitution that protects the rights of all people to life. Protection of human dignity, people against slavery and forced labour, equality and freedom from discrimination, fair trial, privacy, family, children’s rights, properties, political activities, administration of justice, culture, the right to education, prevention of arbitrary arrest and detention are all respected by law.

The rights to fundamental freedoms of natural and legal persons are all inalienable rights of the Namibian people and the transgressions thereto are punishable by law.

These fundamental human rights and freedoms make Namibia a paradise of human kind since independence on March 21, 1990. Blessed with the rights for freedom of speech, expression, freedom of the press and media, freedom of association, freedom to practice religion, freedom of movement inside and outside of Namibia as well as freedom of thought, Namibia is thriving well in a multi-party political culture of tolerance to uphold an environment of diverse political and cultural dissent with the government policy of national reconciliation on track to maintain peace and stability in the country.

Peace, freedoms and stability are essential in any given country that aims for social and economic development with the media central to inform and educate the nation to participate in the development process of the country.

The media representing the freedom of the press, opinion and expression in Namibia has an obligation to inform the nation explicitly about the true affairs of the state of development in Namibia in an objective manner.

However, in the contemporary world where society is divided between the rich and the poor, the media is also divided along those lines. In particular, Namibia is a classic example where media institutions’ role can be identified practically in its operational activities whether it represents the minority elite class [the haves] or the poorest majority of the people, [the have nots].

In so doing, the media in Namibia has a historic mission originating back to the struggle for national independence to represent the interests of the colonial masters and allies, or the interests of the revolutionary people who fought for their inalienable rights to freedom and national independence.

The media in Namibia has a class nature [partisanship] in whose favour it is carrying out its coverage. Progressive media institutions on the one hand are development-oriented focusing on informing and educating the general public where the government embarks upon programmes aimed at improving the standard of living of the people.

It serves for constructive criticism and advises the government accordingly in its development plans for the successful implementation of the development programmes of the country.

It forms partnerships in the development process of the country with peaceful and progressive people.

Opinion leaders have also a class nature, targeting certain communities in society to motivate them towards a certain direction to which they belong.

Namibian retrogressive media institutions and opinion leaders often tend to be dominated by the Namibian elite society that has not yet changed dramatically to improve the living standards of the poorest majority of the former disadvantaged communities in Namibia.

The haves [owners of means of production] still own 80 percent of the national cake of the country at the expense of the poor people. They are misleading the poor that “the government in Namibia is doing nothing to develop the country”, to lure the former oppressed people to their side.

Some retrogressive media institutions and their opinion leaders are yesterday’s colonial masters. They are the remnants of apartheid-colonialists who are working day and night to establish neo-colonialism in Namibia and thereby to maintain their status quo.

In Namibia, they have formed allies with all opposition political parties and opportunists against the revolutionary SWAPO Party and its government. This means that they have not yet politically changed to support the exploited and marginalized majority of the Namibian people.

They only pretend to politically sympathize with the poor to lure them to opposition parties while charging from one opportunist, reactionary and former puppet to another to set-up political parties that are aimed at establishing a neo-colonialist government in Namibia.

However, the formerly exploited and marginalized Namibian people know their rights and their historic mission that aims to stand firm behind their vanguard SWAPO Party-led government to develop the country.

Media institutions of former colonial masters in Namibia have all along carried out smear propaganda campaigns against the government and its leaders aimed at tarnishing the good name of the founding father of the Namibian nation, Dr Sam Nujoma, the State President Hifikepunye Pohamba and other targeted leaders in the government and party level for reasons that suit their undisclosed agenda.

Such abuse of media freedom, freedom of opinion and freedom of speech led the 4th SWAPO Party Congress to (propose) setting up a media council to regulate the activities and operations of media in the country.

To implement the decision of the 4th SWAPO Party Congress, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Hon. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah recently made it clear that the “government plans to establish a media council in Namibia to regulate media ethics and to provide for the public to complain about media reports. Our government has to implement the SADC Protocol on Culture, Information and Sport to which it is party” under the 14 member states of the Southern African Development Community [SADC].

Despite the fact that media institutions will be consulted, the Media Institute of Southern Africa [MISA] and the Namibian Editors Forum [NEF] in their usual fashion of abusing media freedom to suit the privileged few have registered their unhappiness with the establishment of the media council in Namibia.

The Editor of the Namibian, Gwen Lister in her Political Perspective of Friday, February 8, 2008, said “a government-imposed media council is not the way to go and is something that may in any case be an outdated concept. There is nowhere the government can regulate that, except in an imperfect manner or by cutting off access, which incurred of course would be censorship pure and simple.”

The media council is not going to carry out censorship at all but “to regulate media institutions’ ethics and to provide a platform for the public to complain about media reports” in accordance with the SADC Protocol on Culture, Information and Sport. MISA Namibia “calls on the government to continue to encourage the creation of a self-regulator mechanism for the Namibian media without its interference”.

However, Honourable Nandi-Ndaitwah points out that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been “calling on a media mediator on the ground to accommodate complaints from the public. Unfortunately, the media has been dragging its feet in these very important issues.”

There is nothing wrong when it comes to the establishment of a media council in Namibia as media institutions will make input on a participatory basis. The media council is going to be set up in line with the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia and other relevant parliamentary acts to maintain peace and harmony in Namibia and above all to operate in line with the SADC Protocol on Culture, Information and Sport and thereby operate in the best interests of the Namibian people and SADC member states in general.

The Editor of The Namibian newspaper Ms Gwen Lister put it correctly that “different media perform different services to the public and have different editorial stances. Namibia has a relatively diverse media and it is very difficult to get them all to concur on the way to approach the thorny issue of a self-regulatory culture.” If this is the case then a media council is needed to do these on their behalf. And that is the gap the media council will try to fill.

The argument made by the Editor of The Namibian under review is correct that media institutions have a class nature in reporting because of their diverse policies that reflect “their editorial stances”. Now comes the new president of SWANU Usutuaije Maamberua, calling on the government of Namibia “to lift the stupid ban on the Namibian” on the grounds that “The Namibian played a role during the hard struggle for independence”.

That was a strategy that was carried out as the independence struggle was unfolding to success. Rev. Peter Kalangula the former administrator of the Owambo Administration did also the same by pretending to side with the oppressed people of Namibia. The truth came out.

The political strategy he was employing was to divide voters with SWAPO Party in favour of the Christian Democratic Party, a proxy of the DTA where he served for many years as a tool to deny the Namibian people their rights to sovereignty.

If The Namibian, in the view of the SWANU president, has been siding with the oppressed and exploited majority of the Namibian people, why did it abruptly cease to do so after independence?

It has been a newspaper of the elite class of the regime that is dominant up to the present moment. You cannot fool us. History will shame you. The Namibian was never an ally of the SWAPO Party, the sole and authentic representative of the oppressed people of Namibia. Now tell us. How did it come for The Namibian to have been carrying out a propaganda campaign against SWAPO Party and its government that led the government “to a ban against The Namibian because of its anti-government stance and unwarranted criticism of government policies since 2007”?

Come on SWANU president. It is your democratic right to say that “the concept of a SWAPO Party-led government is archaic and does not have any meaning in a democratic state where civil implies self governance at all levels”.

Whether you call it “a stupid ban” – that is your own political undertaking. The SWAPO Party-led government has its own approach. Many people are aware of the role played by “The Namibian”.

You can join RDP and MISA to lift the ban against “The Namibian”. This is subject to the decision of the SWAPO Party-led government.

To call it “a stupid ban” – that is your own policy SWANU. It does not make any dent to the SWAPO Party and its government. Anyway, why can’t SWANU concentrate on its party that has remained a paper political party for so many years without having a member in parliament?

Being a new president of SWANU, you are wasting good time to fight the ban against The Namibian. Anyway, enjoy your right to do so to earn coverage by The Namibian.

– Clemens Kashuupulwa is the Governor of Oshana Region.

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