By Desie Heita
The Polytechnic of Namibia has issued a decree that its premises are a no-go area for journalists covering student events, unless authorised by the Rector or the Vice Rector.
The decision has student leaders up in arms calling it “suppressive and unacceptable” as it effectively gags them and stifles media coverage of their activities and plight.
The Polytechnic management defended the decision, saying it is necessary as it helps control the ever-inquisitive media.
“Once inside [Polytechnic premises] the media run all over the place, barging in people’s offices while we are busy, with no concern [for others],” said Frieda Shimbuli, the Dean of Students at the Polytechnic of Namibia, before slamming down the phone.
The decision, which management said was reached at an “executive level”, gives power to the Rector or the Vice Rector to approve or veto media invitations from the Students Representative Council.
Ironically, the decision seems not to apply when the media is visiting on the invitation of the Polytechnic management.
Polytechnic used the decree on Friday last week and again this week, to gag students who had an impromptu demonstration over registration and student loan payments by the Ministry of Education.
Oblivious to the decision, the Students Representative Council (SRC) at the Polytechnic of Namibia made quick calls to media houses for coverage but no journalist could go inside.
“This is unacceptable,” said Paulus Hauwanga, the SRC president, upon learning of the decision.
“The SRC is required to first have its letter of media invitation approved by the Rector or the Vice Rector before it can be sent out.
Shimbuli declined to elaborate further when pressed for comment and referred all enquiries to the Rector, Dr Tjama Tjivikua, who did not return messages left with his office.
“This decision has not been communicated to us. I am sure all students will be shocked and angry when they learn of this decision,” said Hauwanga, adding that they will take it up with the management.