NBC in censorship row for omitting political analyst’s interview

Rui Tyitende

The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) is facing criticism over alleged censorship after excluding an interview during which a political analyst criticised the government’s handling of key issues, like unemployment and poverty, this year.

The controversy arose after political analyst Rui Tyitende was invited to the state broadcaster’s 20h00 live news programme on Monday, only for his segment to be omitted from the 22h00 news bulletin repeat.

Political commentators say the issue raises concerns over media impartiality and freedom of expression.

Tyitende, speaking to The Namibian yesterday, said he is not surprised at the omission of his interview, citing the NBC’s historical role in “promoting the political interests of its proprietors”.

“They tend to be extremely cautious and engage in self-censorship to appease the powers that be,” he said.

During the live interview on Monday evening on NBC, Tyitende provided an assessment of the government’s endeavours in 2023, a year president Hage Geingob has labelled as the ‘Year of Revival’.

Geingob and his government conducted a review of the year on Monday, with various ministries outlining the achievements made in their respective domains.

“Geingob’s talk of prosperity has been at the level of rhetoric, slogans and statements. High levels of unemployment among the youth, poverty and inequality remain high. So, what exactly has been ‘revived’?” he asked.

Tyitende pointed to the recent suspension of the state-owned daily, New Era’s editor, Jonathan Beukes, over an editorial critical of the judiciary.

“Consider this, if everything I said painted the government in a positive light, would they still have removed my interview? Most publicly funded media outlets, especially in Africa, can never enjoy editorial independence . . ,” he said.

Sociologist Ellison Tjirera expressed disappointment over the omission of the segment, saying it was seemingly based on views retrospectively perceived as critical of the government.

“That kind of behaviour erodes public trust in the national broadcaster and puts its impartiality in question. But the whole ordeal is not surprising, for the shenanigans of alleged censorship at New Era are instructive,” he said.

Tjirera said going forward, critical voices may choose to turn down invites from the likes of the NBC and New Era.

“Consequently, public media houses would progressively lose credibility,” he said.

NBC spokesperson Nico Mwiya justified the exclusion of Tyitende’s interview, asserting that allegations of censorship are baseless.

He said such instances are not unprecedented, adding this is done to ensure “balanced and fair reporting”.

“The story in question required editorial intervention due to its one-sided nature during a live broadcast, prompting us to provide the government with an opportunity to respond,” Mwiya said.

Information and communications technology executive director Audrin Mathe appeared on Tuesday’s 20h00 news bulletin to systematically refute Tyitende’s claims regarding the government’s slow interventions in the country’s socio-economic development.

“In our democratic space, everyone has the privilege of opinion, so we accept that there will be differences of opinion. But, those opinions should also have the element of truth in them . . ,” Mathe said.

He said the government has made significant efforts to improve the lives of Namibians.

Mathe highlighted some ongoing projects, such as the construction of two clinics in the Zambezi region, the upgrading of Otjiwarongo State Hospital, the renovation of a section of Katutura Intermediate Hospital and the construction of 510 classrooms, including 74 ablution facilities, at various schools.

“If the argument is that we have not done enough, we can debate a lot, but let’s not say nothing has been done,” he said.

Mathe said print media, in particular, tends to echo information from analysts without fact-checking.

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