27 February 2013

Namibia: The Other Side of the Coin - Disingenuous Corporate Mainstream Media Attempts to Discredit Government Media


THE open attacks on government print and electronic media are expected. It is nothing new.

To get to understand the dishonest attempts to discredit government media, which present an alternative reportage to that of the corporate mainstream media, the interested clientele of the media would have to know the truth and background of the media ownership, media sponsorship, ownership of the advertising industry and foreign interests.

Transformation in the media, therefore of society at large, is not in the interest of the owners of a hostile and exclusive, oligopolistic economy, holding on to the status quo of 1948. The corporate mainstream media is an integral part of the corporate economy. Prof. Jane Duncan, Highway Africa Chair of Media and Information Society at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, explained:

"Transformation is when the media reflects, in ownership, the society within which it operates, not only in terms of race, but also socio-economic status, gender and religion."

In the case of Namibia, the ownership of the print media in particular has not transformed.

The government-owned publisher of the 'New Era' newspaper and its Zimbabwean joint venture project, 'Southern Times', are newcomers to the print media market.

The rest has remained quite the same. Now, the government media too compete for the advertising cake, but have not established accessibility to the local and regional advertising industry yet.

It is small wonder then, that the corporate mainstream media would reliably and continuously attempt to discredit and destroy such competition.

Namibia received its democratic independence on 21 March 1990.

The Swapo Party under President Sam Nujoma took over the reins of power in Windhoek. Nujoma, the Swapo Party and their government have since been under serious corporate print media attack, which more often than not relied on libellous hearsay, urban legends and cheap leaks to undermine the elected head of state and his government.

It was done to mislead.

This was obviously race-based. The majority of the voters are indigenous black Africans and the ownership of the economy and media remains in the hands of the few beneficiaries of the former colonial-apartheid administration in one way, or another. "A transformed media system is a necessary component of a healthy democracy.

The media should enable citizens to become aware of, raise and hopefully resolve society's most pressing issues," writes Prof. Duncan.

Access to the media is important. This includes the opening up of ownership, staffing and product to the general public out there, including grassroots communities of all colours and not only to an emerging black elite. Prof. Duncan's observation is correct, if frustrations and resulting unrests are to be adhered to properly.

With a population of only 2.2 to 2.5 million people, the media market is indeed minute.

In the case of Namibia's corporate print media market, it would thus, be even smaller, as not everybody buys a newspaper, or magazine. It also means, some of the many newspapers currently on the market would fold through a natural thinning-out process.

There are traditional newspapers with a long history, but a daily circulation of only five thousand copies sold.

They too benefit from the advertising industry, as income based on circulation would not be able to pay for the rent of their premises.

Jealousy and badmouthing will most likely have the effect of increasing the sale of those newspapers under attack. It is historically proven that grassroots will always side with the underdog.

It would be laudable if the established corporate mainstream media would rather lend a helping hand to assist the newcomers to the market.

A petty-cash mentality based on a negative mindset has always backfired.

Commenting on South Africa's media - which this columnist believes applies to Namibia's media too - Prof. Duncan put it all on record: "If the media are unable, or unwilling to tell the story properly - clearly one of the most important stories of post-(colonial-) apartheid history - then the people who are making this history will find ways of telling it without them. And as they remake society from below, eventually they will remake the media too."

May this columnist add - this will apply to everything, including land, which is viewed as an obstacle, created by the colonial-apartheid past. It leaves the grassroots landless, therefore very hungry for land and committed to getting access to it. A responsible media would have to use its platform for an honest national awareness debate over land and its ownership.

Like in South Africa, the corporate mainstream media in Namibia are actually saying that since the black, indigenous African majority rules, the countries have been reduced to corrupt management. And, those companies, that have come out in support of government and parastatals are therefore, also corrupt. But, the truth shall prevail.

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