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Camera operator prevented from covering state visit

(MISA/IFEX) - Sylvester Simubali, a camera operator for the independent broadcaster One Africa Television, was barred by state security officials from filming a visit to Namibia by Cuban President Raul Castro at Hosea Kutako International Airport, on 19 July 2009. Producer Luke Salomo told MISA that pictures in the possession of the station prove that the cameraman was thrown out of the event.

"Our cameraman was banned from filming a state visit by the Cuban president to Namibia, the pictures are evidence," Salomo said.

In a letter addressed to the editor of One Africa Television on 22 July, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology Permanent Secretary Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana confirmed the incident and said that preferential treatment is always given to state media during state visits and national events. He claimed this is normal practice internationally and cannot be changed.

"While it is not true that protocol only allowed the state media to collect footage on the arrival of the Cuban head of state, it is true that the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) as the national broadcaster subsidised by the state receives preferential treatment during state and national events. This is a normal international practice, which we cannot change", said Au-Ndjarakana.

MISA Position

Although the Namibian government regards it as a norm to give preferential treatment to state media, MISA would like to state that all media houses are vehicles for information dissemination and should be treated without disparity, otherwise the action might have been aimed at pushing a one-sided view of the visit, which in this regard is unwarranted and an infringement on media rights to access and disseminate information. MISA calls on the Namibian government to respect and treat all bona fide media houses equally and offer equal access to all media for the coverage of national events. By their nature, national events are of interest to all citizens whether they are covered by state or private media, hence the need to remove all restrictions on their coverage. MISA is confident that Namibian journalists both from the state and independent media pose no security threat to either the country's leadership or visiting dignitaries. The government should see the wider coverage of such events as beneficial to the Namibian people.

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