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MISA considers media freedom at stake as national broadcasting employees strike for better working conditions

(MISA/IFEX) - On 13 April 2007, employees of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), held a peaceful demonstration to show their dissatisfaction with working conditions and empty promises of salary increases.

The demonstration took place from the corner of Cullinan Street to the front of the administration building of the NBC.

A letter, drafted and circulated by the NBC Shop Stewards Council on 10 April 2007, highlights that the salaries of employees have not been adjusted for close to three years. The letter further states that while promises have been made that there will be an adjustment, staff were left with no explanation when the time came to implement the salary increases.

The statement reads: "To make matters worse, Management is dragging their feet and is employing delaying tactics, a feat which they seem to carry out rather hard-heartedly! Our general benefits suffered as a result of the nine percent increment not having been awarded! Our pensions are not growing; our medical aid is not adjusted! Transportation cost has quadrupled since the last increase we had! The cost of basic commodities that we depend on a daily basis has more than doubled, without any commensurate increase in our salaries."

The Shop Stewards Council said NBC seems to have an Executive Management team that is incapable of steering the corporation, adding that notable exceptions are there, but there are no business and strategic visions at all. The also say there is a huge lack of leadership skills.

"Employees are leaving the corporation in droves, yet Management is indifferent and you even hear remarks like 'Let them leave, I don't care!' The top, experienced people are leaving, yet there is nothing to stem the biggest labour mobility this country has ever seen," it said.

According to the statement, employees have been enduring very difficult working conditions, having to fill in for others who have either resigned or whose contracts were terminated. "We are doing work that we are not being paid for," the council said.

The statement also notes that employees will demonstrate each Friday between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. (local time) until all their demands are met, adding that if things do not change for the better, the employees will take further serious action.

In response to the demonstration, Mathew Haikali, national director of MISA Namibia, pointed out that there is a distinct link between the social environment in which journalists work and media freedom. This link has been recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) which, at its 2004 General Conference, included the right to decent working conditions as part of the enabling environment for media freedom and allocated resources to support work in this area. The Bellagio statement also explicitly recognised this link between living standards and working conditions to media freedom.

Haikali further noted that, whilst there is a constant call for journalists to adhere to a code of ethics and maintain professional standards, journalists should be provided with living standards and working conditions which enable them to realise these professional standards.

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