16 May 2013

Namibia: Media Puts Shanghala On Chopping Block

press release

The Chairperson of the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC), Sacky Shanghala, has come under fire from some media institutions after his call to host a consultative meeting with political parties and the media to discuss a law to regulate the media in the country.

Shanghala, who proposes Namibia should have a statutory body to regulate how the media should report, has been accused of working on behalf of government and furthering his personal agendas.

An enraged Shanghala on Tuesday afternoon told Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Director Natasha Tibinyane over the phone, that if she felt he was pushing his own agendas, she should expose him.

"What Mr. Shanghala needs to recognise is that this is a democracy, and there needs to be a consultative process, he needs to ensure that he doesn't overstep his mandate and be honest with his intentions," Tibinayane said.

She further stated that the major problem she had with the LRDC, was that they were not given ample time to think through the idea, and conduct their own research.

"We were just alerted, and from there were expected in last two weeks to just hop on board, without having studied the issue ourselves properly," Tibinyane said.

The Misa director remarked that Shanghala with his initial correspondence was not clear about the purpose of the consultative meeting, or even his intentions, but that the letter sent to her office on Tuesday clarified some of the issues.

"The official letter ironed out most issues, and stipulated that we would all meet to look at regulating state media for election purposes, but it also said 'and then discuss all other issues', and that set off a warning light for me," she said.

According to Shanghala, all he wanted from the Misa director was a list of all media institutions- both print and broadcast- that are registered with their organisation in order to invite them to the consultative meeting.

A letter was sent out to all media houses and political parties this week by the LRDC, inviting them to this particular meeting on the 23 May 2013.

The letter primarily addresses the need to regulate state-owned media during elections.

It further states that other reasons such as the regulation of the media generally, in relation to consumers and the public at large are secondary, and can be discussed over a longer term.

When speaking to the Windhoek Observer this week, Shanghala said he wanted to make clear that at the end of the day the buck stops with him and that if after consultation he saw it fit to draft such a bill, he would do so.

"Look, we can't all be directors here, but I am extending this invitation for everyone involved to come and have their say and I am open to hearing all suggestions," he concluded.

The chairperson of the Editors Forum of Namibia, Eberhard Hoffman, confirmed that he and other media personnel would be meeting with Shanghala to discuss the various suggestions and proposals on how to go about the issue.

He further stated that LRDC can by all means collect complaints by the public regarding the media, but that they would have to consider these complaints in a greater context.

"I think before looking at the duplication of these institutions, we need to invest our energy into strengthening the existing ones, and we should be weary of requesting government to drive such a project," he said.

Hoffman also admitted that not all media institutions were where they needed to be, or where the Editors Forum would like to see them, but that these are things that can be addressed through the office of the media ombudsman.

When asked if he thinks Shanghala is merely furthering his own agendas, Hoffman stated that it is not only in Namibia that you find that politicians want to control the flow of information or curb media freedom.

"We can expect these kinds of ambitions from politicians in general, it doesn't even have to be that Sacky Shanghala is driving this thing alone," Hoffman said.

Hoffman said he was sticking to his initial position on the matter, and needed his question answered, which was what exactly should be regulated.

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