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Namibian Broadcasting Corporation cancels chat shows

(MISA/IFEX) - MISA-Namibia has expressed surprise at a ban on chat shows by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC). In a statement on 3 March 2009, Andrew Kanime, Acting Director General of the NBC, announced that the National Chat Show programmes hosted in the morning shall cease. Members of the public used to phone in to express views on and discuss a number of issues. The government and the ruling party, the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), argue that the shows are being abused to attack the party and government leaders. An arm of the ruling party, the SWAPO Elders Council, and the NBC called for a review of the chat shows in 2008.

In a statement, MISA-Namibia said it strongly opposes any suggesting scrapping, controlling or censoring information in the public domain. While agreeing that there is a need for the programme to be professionalized, MISA-NAMIBIA noted that it is important to recognize that the chat shows were established to provide the citizens of the country with an avenue to express their concerns.

MISA-Namibia added that it regrets that the cancellation of the morning chat shows comes at a time when MISA had successfully engaged the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology on the need to facilitate the training of moderators for chat shows, as well as the transformation of the NBC.

The statement further noted that MISA-Namibia Chairperson Sandra Williams had, during the meeting with Minister of Information Joel Kaapanda a few weeks ago, advised that the programme not be removed but that it should be professionalized.

"With the upcoming elections, there is a need for citizens to speak out and raise concerns; this is a sign of a mature democracy. Although people do not agree, they can agree to disagree, and NBC must put a mechanism in place, which includes competent, professional moderators and clear guidelines for the programme," read the statement.

"Closing down the programme should not be an option; NBC management should look at other avenues to address the concerns highlighted. Taking away the chat shows is like taking away the landmark of freedom of expression in a 19-year-old democracy, and raises questions about Namibia's commitment to freedom of expression," said MISA-Namibia Director Mathew Haikali.

"While the media should adhere strictly to the ethics of journalism and ensure that these are kept to the highest standards, MISA-Namibia would like to repeat the call we made early last year, that the citizen should show restrain in using the NBC platforms rather than NBC suppressing the programmes," the organization concluded.

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