NBC challenges ReconAfrica ruling

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NBC challenges ReconAfrica ruling

The Namibia Broadcasting Corporation is questioning the actions of media ombudsman, John Nakuta in handling a complaint against it, lodged by the Economic Social Justice Trust, where he is a trustee.

The broadcaster said Nakuta should not have handled the complaint at all because there is a conflict of interest as a result of his position as a trustee. 

The trust lodged a complaint with the media ombudsman on 6 May 2022 in relation to the airing of a current affairs programme, ‘Talk of the Nation’ which had a discussion on the activities of Canadian oil and gas company, ReconAfrica, in the Kavango basin.

The complaint stated that on 29 March 2021, NBC carried a paid advertisement and presented it as if it was news content. Furthermore, the paid content was filled with distortions that opposing voices should have been given an opportunity to challenge.

In the suit filed by NBC in the Windhoek High Court, the broadcaster is claiming that Nakuta’s actions in handling the complaint are questionable.

According to NBC’s director general Stanley Similo, Nakuta by his own admission, handled a complaint lodged by his fellow trustee, ignoring the 30-day rule of filing complaints. He said the rule states that a complaint must be filed as soon as possible but not later than 30 days.

Furthermore, Nakuta said he “holds strong views on the current oil drilling in the Kavango region”.

Nakuta also failed to try and help the parties to reach a settlement as stipulated by the laws.

 “There is no doubt that the decision by the media ombudsman to decide on the complaint was vitiated by gross irregularity. Quite apart from the demonstrated bias, it was patently irrational,” said Similo.

He said Nakuta failed to recuse himself from all decision-making processes relating to the complaint when he should have done so.

Nakuta, according to Similo, took a decision relating to the complaint that NBC has a case to answer to.

As a result, Nakuta’s decision resulted in a public hearing. However, before the hearing commenced, Nakuta recused himself from the proceedings.

The hearing before the media complaints committee concluded the broadcaster failed to represent opposing views on its current affairs programme, ‘Talk of the Nation’, in an episode featuring the activities of Canadian oil and gas company, ReconAfrica, in the Kavango basin.

NBC appealed the ruling before the media appeals committee but they too on 13 October found that NBC was in the wrong.

Thus, NBC is now seeking orders that will review and set aside the rulings of the complaints committee and media appeals committee. 

The broadcaster also wants the High Court to review and set aside Nakuta’s decision to investigate the complaint and thereafter constitute the media complaints committee. 

Nakuta, alongside the Editor’s Forum of Namibia has since filed a notice of intent to oppose the application. 

On Monday, judge Herman Oosthuizen postponed the matter to 22 May for case management. He ordered the respondents to file their replying affidavits on or before 19 April.

– mamakali@nepc.com.na