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MISA condemns presenter's decision to curb discussion of issues concerning two political parties during live radio call-in show

(MISA/IFEX) - The following is a 27 November 2007 MISA press release:

NBC radio presenter restricts freedom of expression

On 27 November 2007, Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) radio presenter Tebs Xulu caused a public outcry when he announced that callers to the popular live radio call-in show, the Chat Show, would not be allowed to discuss issues concerning either the ruling South West African People's Organisation (Swapo) or the newly established Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP). The restriction, he said, would apply for the rest of the week. MISA Namibia vehemently opposed the action, labelling it an attempt to control or censor the flow of information in the public domain.

MISA Namibia later confirmed from Xulu that the restriction would only apply for one day, November 27, and that it had been his personal decision and not imposed by management or any other individual or institution attempting to influence the content of the programme.

"I took the decision to encourage Namibians to talk about other developmental issues, and to limit the focus of discussion on politics. There are so many other things to focus on in the country, other than politics", he said.

MISA Namibia National Director, Matthew Haikali, says Tebs Xulu has overstepped his responsibilities as a radio presenter. Haikali stressed that the Open Line platform was created for people to express their opinions freely, taking into consideration the responsibility that goes with doing so.

"Tebs Xulu's decision is restricting people's views when they are not allowed to air issues they feel are of importance to them during the call in hour. MISA Namibia is surprised at him for taking such a stance while he is supposed to be a guide for Freedom of Expression."

MISA Namibia has in the past spoken at length about the enormous value of call-in programmes in that they allow ordinary people to raise issues of concern that might not otherwise have come to public attention, including issues in the remotest parts of the country that journalists at the NBC, the print media or any other media outlets might never come to hear about.

MISA Namibia's position was further supported by its regional secretariat when the Regional Programme Specialist for Media Freedom Monitoring, Zoé Titus, pointed out that freedom of speech and expression, especially about political and other public issues, is the lifeblood of any democracy.

"As we speak Namibians are attempting to clarify their political desires and aspirations. It is of critical importance that political parties are privy to this information so that they are better able to serve the people."

Titus emphasised that whilst Mr. Xulu may wish to present a balanced programme incorporating different developmental issues, his latest action was lacking in good judgement. The formation of a new political party and the congress of the ruling party are possibly the two highest ranking issues of national debate at this time. These should be exhausted, in speech and in writing, for as long as Namibians have an opinion about them. And, if the media is able to give voice to the diverse opinions on the matter, let that be its contribution to good governance.

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