Journalists, please rise up to public expectations
AS someone who used to read Namibian newspapers and who has now taken the view of scanning newspapers, I still felt the need to join this debate about a band of journalists who wrote a letter to President Hage Geingob last week to complain about press releases and opinion articles by the Press Secretary. That level of cowardice and inability to engage content and substance or the lack of it from the Office of the President, is the reason why I scan newspapers and not read them.
All you read these days are half-baked attempts to undermine the achievements of this or that person, usually a black person. It is the fuel of afro-pessimism where all the black Namibian child reads daily is nothing but the so-called failures of their black leaders. I find it also disgraceful for ‘journalists’ to write a letter that is for the most part complaining about the exchanges of the Press Secretary in the normal cause of his duties with NBC, a public broadcaster. Do they respect the newsroom, their colleagues and the leadership of NBC? Or are NBC journalists so weak not to fight their own battles internally and thus in need of reinforcements from hitmen as journalists from outside? What are these journalists at NBC saying about their own professional integrity to sign a letter written for them by politicians-cum journalists who want to capture NBC? Are these not politicians masquerading as journalists? How should we, as the public, trust journalists who openly take sides when they should make sure that all sides are heard and the readers make up their minds?
In Namibia, we don’t have a problem with press freedom and one man writing articles about his views or sharing press releases on behalf of the presidency is not an attack on freedom of the press. The real threat to press freedom and our rights as Namibians is those who don’t accept the fact that the Office of the President has the right to respond to information that it considers incorrect and fabricated. For journalists to act this way, it says a whole lot about the state of the profession. We see how our President sits with young journalists for hours, them asking disjointed questions that are not related to the issues being discussed. At times, they appear as if they are in a theatre performance and turn these press conferences into a circus.
The real issue is not Hengari who you are trying to use as a bogeyman to drive down Namibia in the press freedom rankings. It is known too well that when a country is a hotspot in terms of press freedom or any human rights issues, more money goes into the coffers of NGOs. I hope this not to be the case. If journalists act this way, the public should become worried about the quality of journalism and the ability of the press to become innovative when the print media in particular is facing serious challenges. The public and senior journalists must rise to mentor and train some of these young attention-seeking journalists who use the President to appear brave and tough. The public needs reports and questions that are well informed and well researched during these press conferences. The work of the Editors Forum of Namibia and the Namibia Media Trust should be to provide scholarships and train these young journalists. What are they doing?
The future of journalism is at stake and the decay is imminent if journalists continue to serve hidden agendas. Journalists are not there for their own glory. They should perform with humility and always with depth and quality. I appeal to senior and experienced journalists to come to the rescue of this dying profession in our country.