Tweya says State-owned media's aim is to inform Namibians

26 Apr 2015 15:50pm
WINDHOEK, 26 APR (NAMPA) - DTA of Namibia president McHenry Venaani says the New Era newspaper has improved in terms of the quality of information it provides.
The official opposition leader made the remark during the budget debate of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) in Parliament on Thursday.
Venaani said 15 years ago, New Era was “a Swapo-Party broadcasting mouthpiece, but it has become very critical of Government and all sectors nowadays”, adding that this is where State funds should be spent.
“The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) however must be addressed, although their content too has improved,” he stated.
Venaani, who took the national broadcaster to task, said its record on political campaigns during last year’s general election is shameful.
He said after telling the nation that all political parties would be accorded equal coverage, DTA of Namibia ended up only getting two slots.
“Because Swapo was paying for its own advertisements, they went through the back door and said we must all pay. We are political actors, acting in communities. To say that we must pay is just unheard of,” he complained.
Venaani said people should not let democracy depend on those that are wealthy.
Another DTA Member of Parliament (MP), Elma Dienda said in as much as she too feels that the quality of the information in the New Era newspaper has improved, she questioned why the State-owned newspaper was not making any profit and why Government should continue to fund the institution.
In his response to the concerns by fellow MPs, MICT Minister Tjekero Tweya thanked Venaani for acknowledging that New Era has improved.
He explained to fellow legislators that he recently met with all senior management in the ministry, as well as senior management of all nine State-Owned Enterprises (SOE)'s under the ministry.
Tweya said he told them that their mandate is to inform all Namibians, and not just some of the country’s inhabitants.
“Two of the SOEs in the business plans they shared with me said they only intend to cover 90 per cent of the population. I asked them what about the other 10 per cent? Are they not Namibians?” he questioned them Tweya said.
Their response to the minister was that they did not have adequate financing to invest in infrastructure.
The minister indicated that in the current Communication Act, a fund called the Universal Service Fund has been created which has not been active in the last five years.
The idea is for this fund to be used to help create infrastructure where private businesses or SOE's cannot invest.
“This will be activated during this financial year. Thus come next year, I do not want to hear that 10 or 20 per cent of Namibians are deprived of information,” he warned.
Reacting to the so-called unfair coverage by the NBC during elections, Tweya urged MPs to be fair in their judgement.
Coming to the national broadcaster's rescue, Tweya said the NBC did their best and at times overstretched themselves by even dispatching teams to cover National Democratic Party (NDP) president Martin Lukato's political campaigns in Windhoek and in the Zambezi Region “where at times he would be talking to himself”.
Responding to question about why New Era is not making a profit, Tweya told the legislators these institutions (New Era, NBC) are mandated to give factual information, thus profit making should not be expected.
“The profit, to the contrary, is to have a have a knowledgeable society. That is the profit. Ignorance is a dangerous game. Just imagine the times that the media had to cover Venaani's stay in a shack in Ombili without paying them, hence these institutions had to do that to inform his party that their leader is doing that,” he said.
NBC is set to receive more than half of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology budget for the 2015/16 financial year. Of the total budget of about N.dollars 603 million, NBC will receive N.dollars 341 million, while New Era will receive N.dollars 13 million.