MPs Bemoan State-Media Coverage

SWAPO parliamentarians have, for the umpteenth time, expressed dissatisfaction over the coverage of events by the State-owned media, with some claiming they deserve better since they fought for the country, while others complained about censorship.

Deputy defence minister Petrus Iilonga led the complains about government-owned media during the debate on the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology budget on Tuesday.

Iilonga, who calls himself ‘mutswe gwateka’ [an Oshiwambo nickname which literally means one with a broken head], started with the issue of censorship.

“Who gave New Era the right to censor people or to selectively record some [parliamentarians], and not others?” he asked, adding: “Even if I talk nonsense here, please let that nonsense be heard and [let] the public out there judge, not you.”

Iilonga said some MPs are given coverage for saying nothing.

He, however, praised the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) Oshiwambo Service for covering a recent event he addressed but, in the same breath, accused them of cutting out part of his speech.

“I said important things. They censored it, they take what they want. I tell people good things [which] they never said,” Iilonga explained, concluding that some individuals at NBC and New Era have something against him.

“If they have a personal hatred against this ‘mutswe gwateka’, let them say it publicly,” he dared. Ilonga reminded the house of his liberation war credentials and that he does not deserve to be discriminated against.

“We fought for this country and brought this democracy, which was not there. We are discriminated [against],” he claimed.

This is not the first time Iilonga has complained about State-owned media. In 2007 he accused NBC of only showing his fingers, saying “during the State of the Nation address, I was sitting behind His Excellency [President Hifikepunye Pohamba] but you could only see hands”.

Deputy fisheries minister Chief Samuel Ankama agreed with his fellow deputy minister, accusing State-owned media of tactically denying them space.

“Comrade minister, you seem to be working hard but you also seem to be working with ruthless people, because they are determined to censor others,” he said. “Some of us are unwanted on the face of the NBC. We know very well when we do important undertakings around the country. You will never see that being covered but other people are definitely covered.” Local government minister Charles Namoloh also joined the bandwagon, saying: “I think there is censorship coming into radio, I was interviewed on the Cuito Cuanavale day recently. And then they refused to air it live. They said they wanted to look into it in order to edit it.”

Namoloh also criticised presenters on both television and radio, for especially mispronouncing names and wrong translation of news into vernacular languages.

ICT minister Joeumll Kaapanda responded, saying a politician involved in activities that enhance government’s agenda should receive coverage.

“I would, however, caution New Era that discriminating when it comes to coverage is not necessary. It should be avoided at all costs,” he said. Kaapanda also said revenue collection at the newspaper has been improving ever since the new chief executive officer, Audrin Mathe, took up the position.

Although some parliamentarians lauded NBC’s digital migration, they expressed displeasure with the volume of cartoon programmes on the national broadcaster, especially after NBC took off air prime shows such as The Week That Was, Open File, Prime Minister’s Question Time and Inside Politics in December last year.

“NBC has a major responsibility. If you look at the programmes, particularly the new channels, who is to watch cartoons? Children? Why don’t you educate people?” Ankama asked.

Two parliamentarians, who lauded New Era, included Moses Amweelo and Nudo MP Arnold Tjihuiko.

Other information technology firms co-owned by government, such as MTC and Telecom Namibia were heavily criticised for their poor and discriminatory network coverage and service packages.

Source : The Namibian