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Sunday 21 April 2019
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Private media could support Government boycott – Editors’ Forum

Private media in the country could support soft talks to boycott Government events such as press conferences and State functions if a Cabinet directive to sideline private media when it comes advertising is fully implemented, the Editors’ Forum said yesterday.Editors’ Forum of Namibia Chairperson, Joseph Ailonga, in an emailed response to questions from this publication on the matter, yesterday said the forum is currently seeking an audience with information minister, Tjekero Tweya.“Many of our members have come forward and are extremely worried about this and they have approached us to intervene in this matter,” said Ailonga. The surfacing of a Cabinet decision taken in September sent shockwaves across the media fraternity in the country, with many warning that the decision could have wide-ranging adverse impacts on the local media landscape. The 20 September 2016 Cabinet directive states that: “Cabinet direct[s] all government offices/ministries/agencies, including local authorities, to prioritise the dissemination of information and advertisement[s] through New Era and the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation.”
There are currently soft talks of private media houses mooting the boycott of government functions such as press conferences and state functions. Asked whether EFN will support such a move, Ailonga responded: “Yes. As a collective, we have not discussed this yet but in my view our members are likely to support such a move as they make up the bulk of the private media.”He further stated that: “UNESCO is very clear on discrimination as an indicator in its media indicators: Measurement of media development and we are currently risking our position as the freest media in Africa by trying to change what is already working. Things are working in the Namibian media and have been working for the past 26 years, why fix what is not broken?”The Namibian, which is all too familiar with Government advertising bans, last week quoted information minister Tjekero Tweya saying: “Although the directive gives preference to New Era and the NBC, the placing of advertisements and dissemination of information from government institutions will “not be exclusive” to these mouthpieces.
When asked by that publication why they [NBC and New Era] should receive preferential treatment, Tweya asked: “Why not? What is wrong with that?”“When one has an own shop, one would buy from that shop first, was his analogy. It was a consideration of creating choices and making provision for audiences who might not be reached by private media. An advertisement for a vacancy, indicating that preference will be given to candidates with disabilities, women and youthful applicants, does not mean that other applicants will be excluded,” Tweya reportedly said.In 2000, The Namibian was slapped with a 10-year ban on advertising and the purchasing of copies of the newspaper by government institutions, which was lifted in 2011 by former President Hifikepunye Pohamba amid mounting pressure – even from high-ranking officials within Swapo, like former minister Kazenambo Kazenambo and former Speaker of the National Assembly Theo-Ben Gurirab.
When news of the directive broke earlier this month, MISA Namibia also joined the bandwagon of those opposing Cabinent’s decision to favour only one side of the media divide. “Misa Namibia hereby expresses its concern in relation to a recent Cabinet resolution (16th/20.09.16/007) that all government offices, agencies and ministries, including regional and local authorities, must prioritise the dissemination of information and advertisements through New Era Publication Corporation and the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation,” Natasha Tibinyane of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) said in a statement.




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