10 Friday 11 May 2018 NEW ERA THOUGHT LEADERS The media is its own keeper On Tuesday the Namibian media observed World Press Day – a day usually marked on May 3 worldwide. Ideally all and sundry with any connection to the media business of gathering and disseminating information are to observe the day. This, I must hasten to say, should not include those in the business of fabricating and faking news. As a whole, gathering information and distributing it is not an end in itself but a means towards an end. Yet more often than not the media have come to consider their role and function in society as an end in itself. Because of the fear societies harbour for the media, especially in the developing world, media personnel have come to consider themselves as demigods, or even celebrities, instead of being servants of society. Their role should be to ensure societies duly access information and are informed, thus able to make informed choices and decisions in their many and varied facets of their living. Thus access to information rather than informing is the ultimate role and function of the media. Access because informing has the undertone of propaganda, which is unethical in terms of journalistic ethics. Needless to say such information must be authentic. One source of such authenticity is government. But this does not mean that every bit of information emanating from government, or any other source in a position of generating information, is authentic. It is thus the function and duty of the media to decipher and process such information for easy consumption and use by the end user, which is the John or Mary Public. Hence the need to process such information in an ethical manner, which includes objectivity and balance, two of the ethical principles of journalism, but by no means the only ones and foremost. Namibians observed World Press Day in the aftermath of the relegation of the country by Reporters Without Borders on the global media rankings, from first in Africa, to second now to Ghana. As a media worker of years I cannot understand what, where and how since last year, Namibia may have gone wrong to deserve relegation to second position. This columnist has not only been part of the media scene in this country since independence, but has integrally been involved in and with it for the better and best part of his life. I am not only firsthand conversant with the goings-on within, and as far as the media has been at the any sharp end of the powers that be. I therefore know what self-censorship, as cited by Reporters Without Borders, means. I also understand the invisible hand of the powers that be in terms of controlling the media, having had a run-in with peoples of powers at times – especially because of this very column. The relationship has been akin to the general relationship between the media at large, and the powers that be, whether business, private or public, sometimes cordial, and at times adversarial and tense. I don’t see to what extent such have changed either way, for the better, or for worse, to warrant the country’s latest relegation. In fact I can dare submit that during the period in question the Namibian media have enjoyed relative peace with the powers that be. Thus it is not hard to postulate why Namibia may have been pipped to her first place by Ghana. Yes, given the fact that the media environment may not have been the best in Ghana, came the slightest semblance of betterment, while Namibia remained constant. This signals an important signal to especially the Namibian media. That it cannot become complacent and must at all times jealously guard its gains that propelled it to the top of the charts. We cannot remain constant as far as our media environment is concerned. Every second, minute, day, month and every year, we must gear up because unless we do so, even the worst country on the continent can supersede us in ranking. But the question that one needs to ponder is the role of the media itself in allowing their environment to become worse. Granted that a healthy media environment is largely a function of the powers that be, meaning the government of the day, I strongly believe that the media itself can at times compromise its own environment. Because after all the environment and playing ground are for a greater part the media’s, and only theirs. I strongly believe it is only the media that foremost can be its own keeper and not the government. But media workers need mobilising. ‘Cause currently they seem a benign lot without a shepherd. The Misa Namibia and JAN of yesteryear have been conspicuous in their absence of recent, only to the detriment of the media. Thus the world rankings starts to speak volumes. Where others wavered, he stood firm THIS WEEK IN QUOTES “It’s a pity that healthy food is expensive but there is also a perception that healthy food is expensive, although it is not always cheap.” – Dietician Annalien Turner on why Namibians do not to take in enough calcium. “Angola paid the ultimate sacrifice, Cuba paid the ultimate sacrifice and Namibia paid the ultimate sacrifice.” – President Hage Geingob at the commemoration of Cassinga Day on May 4. “We intend to reclaim top spot because it belongs to us. That’s how serious we are as Namibians. We intend to topple Norway, which ranks first in the world. Why not? It can be done,” MICT minister Stanley Simataa on Namibia losing top spot as the African country with the freest press. “In 1998, we had a good team. But after all the players retired, we struggled to compete well, even to qualify for the African Nations Cup until 10 years later when we rebuilt another team which qualified.” – Brave Warrior coach Ricardo Mannetti on the huge skills and experience void in Namibia’s national football team. “I express, on behalf of the Angolan people, the executive and on my own, deep gratitude for having distinguished me with the highest decoration of your country, which has for us a great value and a transcendent meaning,” – Angolan President Joao Lourenço upon receiving the First Degree Order Medal, the highest award in Namibia. Compiled from New Era editions from this week and Nampa Founding Father Dr Sam Nujoma turns 89 tomorrow. Whereas some prepare to join him in celebrating his birthday anniversary; ironically others are seeing this as an opportune time to bolster their hatred-laced slander campaigns against and cast cavalier aspersions on the person Dr Nujoma. Nujoma has survived several well-orchestrated slander campaigns before and after independence, even from the apartheid regime with great military and financial might. Therefore, new attempts to discredit the good name of the Founding President remain urban legends and should not be taken seriously, unless in the case of genuine or constructive criticism. Some have even claimed that the role of the Founding President in the struggle for liberation has been greatly exaggerated and that he is over-glorified and worshipped. However, the fact is that he was the undisputed leader of the Namibian revolution. Nobody has ever come forth alleging that Nujoma was never the Commander-in-Chief of PLAN. Hence, if there’s honour to be accorded to Namibian heroes and heroines who resisted and defeated apartheid, considering his name - and those of other distinguished PLAN fighters and commanders – it is appropriately representative of all those who relentlessly participated in the struggle. It does not purport that he was the only freedom fighter who liberated the country. It was a collective effort, which required the determined leadership Nujoma and his fellow comrades provided. Not every freedom fighter could be made president, minister or senior government official. Therefore, it does not mean that if an individual does not have a seat in the top echelons of government, their participation in the struggle is worthless or belittled, and the honour they deserve has now been selfishly snatched by Nujoma. Similarly, it should be noted that the “Founding Father” title was not going to be conferred to a freedom fighter who was incarcerated for many years by Daniel Likius the colonial regime; participated in many battles; fired most shots in the struggle; was the most educated or clever, but the one elected as first President of Namibia. Period! Whether it is Dr Sam Nujoma or anybody else. Nujoma did not steal that title from anyone; he does not owe it to anyone. Whenever Nujoma is praised or honoured for his struggle for liberation credentials, that glory belongs to all freedom fighters who fought under his vanguard leadership. Interestingly, neither Nujoma nor anybody ever claimed to have liberated this country alone. The recent bestowal of the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in Gold to Nujoma in South Africa is indeed thus an accolade to all freedom fighters. Any street/venue/institution named after the Founding Father should be viewed as a representative and collective recognition of the efforts of all freedom fighters, and not that his name sounds better than any other name in Namibia or that he’s being idolized as an individual. Any monument/statue erected in honour of Nujoma ought to be understood as an honour to all freedom fighters (who fought under his leadership) and not necessarily as a mere personal honour. Or is it better for Government to erect statues in honour of each and every freedom fighter instead of honouring all through their leader? I hope this addresses concerns that the Founding Father is ‘selfishly’ named by many streets/ venues/institutions. Of course, others have been honoured too –named after streets/venues/institutions, in the similar manner as Nujoma. It was never stated that Nujoma singlehandedly opposed apartheid in Namibia. He led forces that fought for independence. It ought not to be an arduous exercise to fathom that. It was also never said that the life of Nujoma is an epitome of a perfect life lived by a saint. None of us are perfect and he is no exception. He is not worshipped or idolized, he is just respected, which respect he earned. In fact, the SWAPO Party Constitution warns that “personality cult” tendencies should be averted. Nobody claimed that the Struggle for Namibia’s Liberation was a one-man show. It was a concerted effort, and Nujoma, with many others, provided the needed leadership during very difficult times during our struggle. As we join Nujoma and his family in celebrating his 89th birthday anniversary, we should always remember that he’s the face of our Liberation Struggle wherein many obdurately participated to bring about our much-coveted independence. Happy Birthday Tatekulu!
Friday 11 May 2018 NEW ERA ADVERT 11 Celebrating 89 years of exceptional vision. Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in Gold.