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Newspaper barred from beauty pageant in retaliation for critical coverage

(MISA/IFEX) - MISA's Namibia chapter has noted with concern complaints by the "Informanté" newspaper that the organisers of the Miss Namibia beauty pageant have refused to grant "Informanté entry to the pageant for coverage.

According to "Informanté" reporter Elvis Mboya, the organiser of the annual Miss Namibia pageant, Connie Maritz, made it "categorically clear that 'Informanté' will not cover this year's event."

Mboya noted that Maritz singled out the weekly tabloid because of what she termed as "negative publicity" in the newspaper's reports on the event.

Meanwhile, in a telephone interview with MISA Namibia, Maritz emphasized: "I did not invite the 'Informanté' to the event, and I will not allow any interviews to be conducted with any 'Informanté' reporters. Any and all of the reports done by the 'Informanté' on the pageant and events around the pageant have been incorrect, unethical and untrue! For that reason, they have not been invited."

National Director of MISA-Namibia Mathew Haikali said the incident cannot be described as anything other than discriminatory as well as a violation of freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

Haikali expressed disappointment that an incident like this is occurring so soon after the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day, themed "Press Freedom, Access to Information and Empowerment of the People".

In addition, he noted that the environment for media freedom in Namibia has been shifting towards repression. "The trend is not so bleak and it also not so bright - the past year has seen a lot of media people taken to court. We are not saying that the journalists are not responsible, however, people have somehow been using ( . . .) defamation laws to take journalists to the courts as a way to silence the media," said Haikali.

The National Director urged newsmakers, in line with press freedom, to grant journalists access to information and to allow the general public to reach their own conclusions based on that information.

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