By Staff Reporter
Various media experts have condemned the recent statement published in a community-based newspaper of an exiled former Member of Parliament accused of having masterminded the bloody secessionist uprising in Caprivi.
The statement published in the Caprivi Vision a fortnight ago contains a call by exiled former opposition MP Mishake Muyongo for an uprising.
Muyongo fled Namibia in 1999 following an attempt to dismember the Caprivi Region through a failed armed uprising. He now lives in Denmark, where he is believed to have obtained political asylum.
The worrisome statement allegedly forwarded via email to the editor of the newspaper as a new year’s message quotes the former Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) president inciting residents of Caprivi to “find strength and wisdom to destroy those who are occupying their country via means of arms” – it reads in part.
The statement continues: “Pulling and working together can bring the desired results that are freedom and independence for the Caprivi and the people.
The oppressive regime of Namibia has run out of ideas as far as the Caprivi is concerned,” wrote Muyongo.
Muyongo’s communication was received with mixed emotions. Government, through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting discredited it in the strongest terms.
Eberhard Hofmann, from the Namibia’s Editor Forum (NEF), stressed that the content of the message and the way in which it was packaged was wrong from the onset.
Hofmann said: “Editorial policy and packaging of news should always be done with reference to the constitution. He said if you already have a message calling for an uprising, that is already a violation of the constitution and therefore it should not have been placed in the first place.”
The veteran journalist indicated that anything that incites or calls for armed action, whether a public or private opinion, is against the constitution.
“The constitution is clear about it and it would not allow for secessionism which is unconstitutional, which Mr Muyongo has called for. As a former member of the Constituent Assembly he knew well that it is not allowable,” said Hofmann.
On the other hand, Hofmann said that if the editor had gone one step ahead and made a story out of it, he would still have had to be careful about how he had to package the content, even if it meant that Muyongo as a citizen has the right to freedom of speech.
A senior lecturer at the University of Namibia, concurred saying that the constitution stresses that the “Republic of Namibia is hereby established as a sovereign secular, democratic and unitary state founded upon the principles of democracy, the rule of law and justice”.
The constitution further reads that, as part of the fundamentals of freedoms in the country, “freedom of speech and expression, which contain freedom of press and other media shall be adhered to, but subject to being exercised within the confines of the laws of the Republic of Namibia”.
The lecturer said that the content of Muyongo’s statement contravened the law because it challenged the validity of the existence of the state as a singular unitary state, whose territorial boundaries are clearly described in the constitution. Therefore he said that it was not in the public’s best interest at all.
Mathew Haikali, the National Director of the media advocacy and lobby group Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Namibia-Chapter, says that according to the Namibian media code of ethics “a journalist shall not publish or broadcast details that promote ethnic or religious discord”.
In that instance, he said publication of the statement was a violation of the code of ethics, and it was wrong to place the statement in the first place.
Lately, there have been constant calls for a media regulatory body to regulate the media as a means of promoting good media practices. Government has indicated that it could ago ahead and establish the body. It has over time advised the media industry to consider the establishment of a self-regulatory body, but to no avail.
Over the years, there have been futile attempts to establish a Media Council, by media institution themselves. The first attempt was the appointment of former auditor general Fanuel Tjingaete as the media ombudsperson in 2001.
But the ombudsperson’s office died away quietly.
Haikali said: “A media regulated by Government is a big no”. According to him, what needs to be looked at is how the public can have a say in the formation of a Media Council.
“Citizens must be empowered. To be empowered to ask questions, they need to be empowered in terms of media literacy.”
This according to him will prove more prudent because once the public know the subject matter, they will be able to deal with media content.
He says though there is an editor’s forum, which members of the public can approach on any media related issue.