9 May 2018

Namibia: Traditional Media Survival Threatened

FALLING advertising revenues, social media platforms and the exodus of senior journalists are some of the factors contributing to the decline of traditional media enterprises, according to research findings released at yesterday's World Press Freedom Day commemoration in Windhoek.

Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) researcher Dietrich Remmert revealed this during the presentation of the findings of a study conducted on the sustainability of local media organisations for this year's World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).

WPFD is marked on 3 May every year, and this year, the main commemorative event was held in Accra, Ghana under the theme 'Keeping Power in Check'. Namibia, however, marked the day under the theme 'Sustainability of the Media in Namibia'.

Remmert said the print media was on a path of stagnation, with readership not increasing but decreasing, or remaining the same for a while.

He added that financial challenges, due to declining advertising and the inability to take advantage of online platforms for revenue generation, affected the quality of journalism and the diversity of content as journalists from different media houses tended to cover the same topics.

University of Cape Town media professor Herman Wasserman, who authored a book on tabloid journalism, said financial constraints not only affected the quality of journalism, but also the independence of journalists.

Namibia Media Trust chairperson Gwen Lister stressed that although the print media might eventually die out, what concerned her most was quality journalism, which she said will always attract readers.

Namibia Press Agency chief executive officer Isack Hamata urged journalists to cultivate a reading culture, and to remain informed.

One event attendee raised the issue of salaries in the media industry, and stressed that even though journalism was not a high revenue-generating profession, it did not mean that journalists should be paid peanuts.

Last week, various editors and journalists voiced concern about salaries and the need for a representative body, such as a press club or a journalists association, to tackle issues affecting journalists.

In response, information minister Stanley Simataa likened journalism to a religious calling, saying it should be embraced with a lot of sacrifice and dedication.

Recently, Reporters Without Borders downgraded Namibia to second place, behind Ghana in Africa, on its World Press Freedom Index.

Simataa said this concerned the government to such an extent that it will investigate the matter, as well as speed up the finalisation of the access to information bill.

European Union ambassador to Namibia, Jana Hybaskova, praised Namibian media for their work and for consistently fair reporting on EU-Namibia-related issues.

Unesco's country representative, Jean-Pierre Ilboudo, who spoke on behalf of Unesco director general Audrey Azouley, emphasised the importance of a free media.

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