Namibia: Opposition DTA accuses public broadcaster of unfair treatment

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The DTA is accusing the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation of "unfair treatment and poor journalism ethics" because of its coverage of opposition parties.

In an open letter addressed to Matthew Gowaseb, the new acting Director General of NBC, DTA Secretary General McHenry Venaani complained that despite several calls over the past six years for more equitable news coverage of opposition party rallies, the NBC has failed to make any improvement.

He blasted the national broadcaster for taking almost a month to air news on the party's commemoration of the assassination of Chief Clemens Kapuuo at Okakarara; failing to cover a rally at Katima Mulilo on May 9, with the excuse that the comments of the party's president, Kaura, "must be further investigated"; and showing up an hour and a half late to cover a rally at Okandjengedi on Sunday, therefore having to do an interview instead of covering the event itself.

In the letter, Venaani pointed to Article 17 of the Constitution in stating that all Namibian citizens should have "the right to participate in peaceful political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of government".

"The bylaws in statute that govern your institution and that set out clear ethics parameters to which we as Namibians want to believe that your institution seeks to objectively perfect the set standards," the letter read.

"To our dismal disappointment, your institution is busy with a clear political perpetuation of one-party dominance through everyday covering rallies of the ruling party and macro attempt to re-edit what the opposition is saying. That attitude and behaviour of your corporation we as a party shall not succumb to, now and in the future," Venaani wrote.

Presenting the letter to media yesterday, Venaani also said that NBC's unquestioning coverage of the ruling party was unethical. "It seems the NBC has a selective morality, because the Founding Father can say the nastiest things at a rally, and those rallies still get covered," he said, adding that it was "a joke" that the most junior politicians of the ruling party are covered over senior politicians of opposition parties.In the letter, Venaani also criticised the appointment of a Director General for the national broadcaster as a political exercise.

"We are aware that the reason why your institution is head hunting for a Director General is to seek for an individual that carries the aims and objectives of the ruling party [in a] biased [way]. I call upon your office to unmask the NBC of its unashamed biasness [sic] and to cover events of all without fear or favour."

He called upon the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology to resolve the appointment of the Director General, and to ensure that such person would serve the interests not of the Swapo Party but of the people.

"It's high time that we as a country and people build institutions beyond party influence and create people-serving institutions that would stand the test of time."

Venaani ended the letter with a call to Gowaseb to convene a meeting of all political parties "to discuss the covering schedules of all political parties' events so that equity can prevail in your institution and Namibians can honestly make their own judgment".

He also called on the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) "to closely monitor this sour state of events" at NBC.

(source : The Namibian)