The media plays a critical role during any pandemic, as it becomes the primary source of information and public communication; however, there are some concerns on how information is currently shared during the lockdown.
This is according to the Director of the Namibia Media Trust, Zoe Titus, who expressed she sensed a media censorship.
“There is a growing narrative that ‘we are in this together and this is not a time to criticise’. What this implies is censorship – self-censorship, which makes the work of journalists incredibly difficult because the media is supposed to ask these critical questions for public interest and public service,” explained Titus.
Titus was part of the panel discussion on the impact of Covid-19 on media work in Namibia and how media could contribute to the fight against the global pandemic.
According to Titus, the flow of information is currently unidirectional, as information is centralised, with policymakers deciding when, how and by whom the information is shared.
“This is a very interesting position to be in and it leaves very little room for the role of journalists to play in terms of accessing and seeking multiple sources of information, analysing that information, verifying it and ultimately delivering it to the public,” she noted.
In a time of a pandemic, Titus urged journalists to avoid assuming they know what the public wants to hear but rather engage people and find out what they want.
Director general of the national broadcaster NBC Stanley Similo said with 12 radio stations, television and online platforms, they have ensured the bulk content generated is based on Covid-19. Similo added that they have translated various virus messages into local languages to ensure important information reaches those who need it the most.
“We have seen an openness in public officials who have come out to share information. But we hope that this willingness does not end with Covid-19,” stated Similo.
Similo explained that the media is currently operating in unchartered waters, as he projects that NBC will lose about N$30 million to N$40 million in revenue.
This, he said, will ultimately affect coverage in remote areas.
Although there are some challenges, Christof Maletsky, CEO of New Era Publication Corporation, said the pandemic brought some opportunities that can be utilised by the media.
“This situation should open opportunities for making use of digital platforms, moving into digitalisation. People in rural areas should not be underestimated because they too have access to social media platforms. We need to up our game, at the same time ensuring that people have access to information. Distance journalism needs to be up and people should not be confined to newsrooms,” Maletsky said.
Maletsky further added that business models of media house need to change as the media cannot continue to operate in their usual space.