Media get lukewarm scorecard

22 July 2019 | Business

A home-grown analysis of the Namibian media landscape has identified a number of issues that detract from quality journalism and trust in the media.

Among several challenges identified in the sixth African Media Barometer (AMB) for Namibia is a media bias towards male voices on hard issues.

“There is no real gender balance in the media - men tend to be favoured for covering important topics,” the 2018 AMB report, which was launched on Friday, states.

The AMB also found that while Namibians are able to access a wide range of information sources, among them 30 radio stations, five dailies and at least seven weekly newspapers, “content does not seem to be well balanced - it was felt that the focus is largely Christian, and dominated by politics and economics.”

Furthermore, the Namibian panellists noted a concern that “newspapers owned by the state are viewed as not being free of political interference”.

Several panellists also worried that the board that governs the NBC is perceived by some to do so “in the best interest of the government, and not necessarily of the public”.

The AMB also sheds light on issues eroding professionalism and ethics within journalism.

“In Namibia, newspapers regularly publish corrections of articles. Some see this as a sign that there is not enough accuracy in reporting. Panellists complained that journalists do not take the time to check their facts and get a more balanced story.”

On the indicator measuring legislative protections of media freedom and freedom of expression, one panellist said although Namibia has “many laws that support freedom of expression, our laws are rather schizophrenic.

“On the one hand, they promote this right, but further down, they go against these very laws.”

The 2018 media barometer found that in general, citizens exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear.

Nevertheless, the panellists found that “self-restriction is often exercised due to traditional and cultural practices, and also by government employees who seem reluctant to speak freely unless guaranteed anonymity.”

Scorecard

Unlike other press surveys the AMB is a self-assessment exercise based on home-grown criteria.

The Namibian AMB perception index was conducted by panel of 12 civil society and media representatives who rated 39 indicators within four main sections.

The AMB for Namibia was released by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and Media Institute of South Africa (MISA).

The indicators are based on a score of one to five, with one indicating the country does not meet the indicator and a score of five indicating the country meets all indicators.

The section that received the highest score, 3.1 out of 5, asked panellists to rate the level of protection and promotion of freedom of expression in Namibia.

The lowest overall score was 2.5 for the section assessing whether broadcasting regulations are transparent and independent, and whether the state broadcaster is a truly public broadcaster.

The section that evaluated whether or not the Namibian media practice high levels of professional standards received a score of 2.9 out of 5.



Forwards

The 2018 AMB concludes with a number of recommendations to help reform and improve the media landscape. The panellists urged the government to speed up legislation providing for access to information.

They also called for increased research into Namibia's media landscape, including salaries and ownership.

The panel concluded that there is a need for increased, balanced and sensitive coverage of minority groups and agreed there is a need for a journalists' union.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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